By Charles H. Ramsey
With so many advances in technology, people would expect our nation’s capital to have the best tools available to the thousands of public safety officials who serve and protect Washington, DC and the National Capital region. When I was Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, DC on 9/11, I experienced the failure of radio and cellular communication within public safety agencies during this emergency. Today, I believe effective communication is still the greatest obstacle that our nation’s first responders face. Thankfully, we are one step closer to overcoming that obstacle.
After hearing from those on the front lines of protecting our communities, the 9/11 Commission concluded that our nation needed a system that allowed public safety officials to communicate with one another without fear of commercial network congestion. As a result, in 2012 President Obama signed a law creating FirstNet – the first, nationwide wireless broadband network dedicated to America’s first responders during times of emergencies. After more than 4 years of meeting with public safety leaders and experts nationwide to gather their input, our first responders will have access to a network that is interoperable, allowing them to communicate vital information seamlessly and immediately.
Today most public safety agencies are using commercial cellular networks to communicate – which can be a challenge when there is an overworked network or an emergency. This happens when a large number of people are congregated in one area – like during events on the National Mall or at major sporting events – and are trying to use the network. It also can occur when there is an emergency and people are trying to contact their friends and families, causing a network jam. Obviously, we do not want our first responders in this situation because they rely on effective communication to protect property and save lives.
This is why FirstNet and its partner, AT&T, will utilize FirstNet’s issued dedicated wireless spectrum to create the nationwide interoperable network, allowing emergency responders first priority when network traffic is high.
This article was written by Charles H. Ramsey and appears on keepingamericasafe.net dated December 21, 2017.
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Charles H. Ramsey served in law enforcement for nearly 50 years. He is the former chief of the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, DC; former commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department; and former deputy superintendent of the Chicago Police Department.