Buildout of FirstNet Could Drive Amateur Radio Emergency Service Changes


The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) could change the complexion of how the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) functions to support communication for responders during disasters and emergencies. As an independent authority within the US Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunication and Information Administration (NTIA), FirstNet’s mission is to build out, deploy, and operate an interoperable nationwide broadband network dedicated to first responders. Ralph Haller, N4RH, the chairman of the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC), told ARRL that the advent of FirstNet “will likely be as significant as when public safety first began using radio.” “The nationwide network will be hardened, so that it will be more likely that many of today’s public safety systems remain operational in emergencies,” Haller said, pointing out that Amateur Radio should not expect to have access to FirstNet. He cautioned, “The endurance of Amateur Radio systems in disasters has been a big selling point in the past for incorporating amateur operators in emergency plans, but perhaps not so much in the future.”

Today amateur operators are able to provide valuable information to emergency operations centers in the recovery phase of disasters. whether that intelligence gathering is reporting on storm clouds, power outages, or road closures, Amateurs can help provide critical, real-time information about conditions over a vast area. While first responders are treating the injured or protecting life and property, the amateur community can concentrate on assessing the overall picture. Haller advised that the the US Amateur Radio community should continue to work closely with public safety organizations at all levels to assure that they remain a part of emergency plans.

Source: ARES

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