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Dedicated portable cell towers aid first responders in wildfire response

Wildland fires are a constant threat for first responders and the communities they serve. As of Dec. 3, more than 54,300 wildfires have burned over 6.8 million acres across the United States, according to the National Interagency Fire Center*.

During Oregon’s Bootleg Fire in August 2021, more than 1,000 first responders answered the call. Agencies included Oregon Emergency Management, Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue, Lake Oswego Fire and more.

The fire turned into the nation’s largest active blaze, destroying more than 400 buildings and hundreds of vehicles. And the need for reliable, interoperable communications was never more vital.

As public safety’s partner, FirstNet®, Built with AT&T deployed dedicated portable network assets (SatCOLTs) to provide firefighters and other crew members with the dedicated connectivity and always-on priority communications they require.

Dedicated portable cell sites provide a higher level of safety on the ground. They give first responders better situational awareness via applications, near real-time footage and communications.

Plus, with the added connectivity at their base camp, first responders were able to catalog their efforts, plan and coordinate activities, and reach their families during their down time.

Dedicated solutions

In Oregon, Rich Huechert, Communications Unit Leader with the Oregon Office of State Fire Marshall, said his crews were trying to cover a large footprint. And having FirstNet for communications helped with situational awareness.

“We’ve got seven different camps and pushing close to 400,000 acres of forest land that’s on fire. Communication is the cornerstone of what we do. It’s the most important factor when we’re out there,” said Rich Huechert, Communications Unit Leader with the Oregon Office of State Fire Marshall. “If the fire is making a push somewhere, they have to be able to know that. Using the FirstNet network has been a very good resource for us to use. They’ve been here in camp helping us out.”

ROG the Dog

In addition, FirstNet deployed ROG the Dog to help first responders cope with working long and difficult hours. Therapy dogs are proven to have a positive impact on mental and physical health; improve coping and recovery; enhance morale and decrease stress*, among other benefits. That’s why FirstNet, Built with AT&T has gone beyond our commitment to build and operate FirstNet to introduce the animal-assisted therapy program as part of our FirstNet Health and Wellness Program.

“Having a therapy dog is something we bring for firefighters when we do a critical stress debrief with our peer support teams,” said Ryan Green of Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue. “Having Rog the Dog come in

and just be able to allow us to forget about everything for a few minutes is really healthy. And we appreciate it quite a bit.”

What is FirstNet

FirstNet is the nationwide wireless communications platform built with and for first responders. It grew out of the devastating losses from the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The attacks exposed glaring weaknesses in our communications systems. Cell service was spotty. Countless emergency response teams could not communicate using their trusted radios. And many first responders lost their lives.

So, the public safety community advocated for a reliable, communications network for first responders. In 2012, Congress established the First Responder Network Authority and charged it with building a network just for first responders.

And FirstNet was born. FirstNet is built for all public safety. That means every first responder in the country – career or volunteer; federal, tribal, state or local; urban, suburban or rural. And reaching rural and remote parts of America is one of our top priorities.

Using all AT&T LTE bands and Band 14 spectrum, FirstNet already covers more than 99 percent of the U.S. population today.

Watch the video to hear more about the response to the Oregon Bootleg Fire.

Go to FirstNet.com to learn more about the kennel of trained Labradoodles who specialize in animal-assisted therapy for first responders. And to request a ROG the Dog, please call customer care or email your request to [email protected]

Go to firstnet.com/ca for more information about FirstNet in California, or please contact Kristi Mercado at [email protected].

*National Fire News | National Interagency Fire Center (nifc.gov)

**Purvis, M., Fullencamp, L. & Docherty, M. (2020). Animal Assisted Therapy on Law Enforcement Mental Health: A Therapy Dog Implementation Guide. Bowling Green University.

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