Madison County first responders 'excited' for Illinois' decision to join FirstNet, official says
Madison County emergency management professionals are enthusiastic about Illinois' decision last month to join a nationwide federal-enhanced wireless broadband network, a local emergency management official said during a recent interview.
"Here in Madison County, we are excited that Illinois chose to opt in to FirstNet, and believe it will provide opportunities for enhanced public safety communications capabilities for us," Madison County Emergency Management Agency Deputy Director Mary Kate Brown said during a Metro East Sun email interview. "Our agency has already made the transition over to FirstNet, and we are looking forward to other public safety agencies within Madison County getting onto the system and increasing all of our interoperability."
Gov. Bruce Rauner announced last month his decision to accept a First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) and AT&T plan, opting Illinois' public safety community into the nationwide wireless broadband network. FirstNet is a federal initiative to build out the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network.
FirstNet is an independent authority created within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, developed following a 9/11 Commission finding about communication lines that became jammed during the national tragedy in 2001. Heavy traffic on communications lines made it almost impossible to contact firefighters and other first responders in New York City.
Rauner’s decision makes Illinois one of dozens of other states already in the first responder network.
“Communication is a life or death proposition in emergencies,” Rauner said in his announcement. "Opting in to FirstNet’s dedicated network means first responders - fire, EMS, police - always have an open channel when it comes to doing their lifesaving work."
Illinois' participation in FirstNet will provide first responders in the state with prioritized network access and connect them with much-needed critical information during emergencies, according to Rauner’s announcement. Joining FirstNet also will allow Illinois to provide public safety personnel throughout the state with "an efficient communications experience” in the event of a natural disaster; "enhance network coverage across the state's diverse landscape - particularly benefitting those in rural areas"; and "drive infrastructure investment and create jobs across Illinois."
FirstNet will "usher in new lifesaving tools, including apps, specialized devices and technologies, with the potential for future integration with NextGen 911 networks and Smart Cities' infrastructure," Rauner’s announcement said.