Redstone Arsenal, Ala. -- The Army marked the start of a partnership that will provide a dedicated communication network to first responders, every day and in every emergency.
Lt. Gen. Donnie Walker, deputy commanding general of Army Materiel Command and senior commander of Redstone Arsenal, joined Alabama Governor Kay Ivey; Richard Carrizzo, vice chair, FirstNet Government Authority Board of Directors; and Wayne Hutchens, president of AT&T Alabama, to announce new, purpose-built FirstNet cell sites at 72 Army installations nationwide.
“Thanks to FirstNet and our new partnership, our first responders will soon have the tools and technologies that provide unprecedented capability when it comes to protecting and serving our people,” said Walker during a ribbon cutting ceremony on the AMC Parade Field, Dec. 2.
FirstNet is a dedicated broadband network that ensures first responders will have access to always-on, 24-hours-a-day priority and pre-emption across voice and data. The need for a dedicated network was recognized after September 11, 2001, when first responders had difficulty communicating with each other due to being on the same network as the general public.
Twenty years later, FirstNet will help first responders by giving them their own dedicated network they can use to communicate across state lines and jurisdictions.
“A few years ago, a group of humanitarian relief organizations did a study and found that after food, water, and shelter, information and the ability to communicate was the thing people in a crisis said they needed the most,” said Walker. “That is why the ability to communicate, in spite of power outages and service disruptions, is so critical for emergency services personnel. FirstNet gives us this capability.”
The ceremony marked a celebration of the Army-wide partnership with the FirstNet Government Authority and AT&T, the service provider.
“The Army first validated the utility of FirstNet during a pilot program at Fort Polk in Louisiana, as Hurricane Laura made landfall last year,” said Walker. “FirstNet, with its wireless capabilities, allowed first responders to transmit live video data without a break in signal, even after Fort Polk’s legacy system failed. FirstNet was instrumental in their ability to secure the installation and safeguard everyone.”
Redstone Arsenal is the first installation with an approved infrastructure application. The arsenal’s build will consist of three macro towers, 28 small cells and an additional nearly 500 strand miles of fiber.
“The work being done here is too important to not have proper connectivity and service,” said Ivey. “The collaboration of the Army and FirstNet will provide Army public safety personnel – firefighters, law enforcement and security – at 72 Army installations including Redstone Arsenal with increased capabilities to communicate as effectively and efficiently as possible, to best protect themselves and those they serve.”
The new infrastructure will also help improve the overall coverage experience for Redstone’s workforce of 44,500 men and women, representing 78 different agencies, as well as the installation’s visitors.
“As Senior Commander, security and safety of everyone who lives and works on this installation is job one,” said Walker. “FirstNet is absolutely essential in that priority, and pivotal in our efforts to improve the resilience of our installations. It is, in a word, a game changer.”