Emergency responders deploy new communications gear

Suquamish Tribe Police and Emergency Management staff are now using new cell phones and a service provider that will allow them to communicate better during emergencies.

Part of the FirstNet platform, the service gives public safety officials encrypted front-of-the-line access to cell phone networks during high network congestion.

“That means our calls, texts, and data will still get through even when cell coverage is overwhelmed by other traffic,” said Cherrie May, the Tribe’s Emergency Management Director “It also means we’ll be able to communicate with other local, state, and federal agencies during major disasters as well.”

The new service also provides enhanced coverage in urban and rural areas, as well as stronger signal strength, with greater penetration into buildings.

FirstNet is part of a partnership between AT&T and the First Responder Network Authority, a nationwide program developed in the wake of the Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attacks when phone lines were quickly overwhelmed and first responders struggled to communicate with each other.

“When considering the transfer to this service, we conducted extensive field testing in collaboration with the Police Department to verify adequate coverage and service reliability,” said Emergency Management Operations Officer Eric Quitslund. “We found the FirstNet service to have broader coverage, stronger signal strength, and much more reliable service throughout the Reservation, as well as all the areas patrolled by the Police Department’s Marine Division.”