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Puerto Rico joins dedicated emergency response network

By on September 1, 2017

SAN JUAN –The Government of Puerto Rico has joined the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet),  which provides a wireless broadband network for public and private first responders. Twenty states and territories have announced their decision to opt-in to the network so far.

FirstNet is an independent authority within the U.S. Department of Commerce chartered in 2012 to “ensure the building, deployment, and operation of the nationwide, broadband network that equips first responders to save lives and protect U.S. communities.”

(Screen capture of www.firstnet.gov)

Public safety and emergency management personnel will have a broadband communication system that will work during critical events, avoiding the usual collapse of other networks during these emergency situations, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló explained during his signing of the proposal in La Fortaleza.

AT&T has a 25-year contract to provide the exclusive wireless network, so the agreement will be paid with federal funds.

The governor said the system will be available in the coming months in the metropolitan area. It is expected that in less than five years all of Puerto Rico will be covered, including Mona island.

The service, which private-sector first responders will also be able to access, will be available to municipalities as well.

As part of its public-private partnership with FirstNet, AT&T will build, operate and maintain the secure network, which is expected to result in a system of modernized devices, apps and tools for first responders.

Although the initiative is expected to create jobs on the island during its installation process, AT&T engineering director for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Víctor Vera, could not provide an exact numbers.

“FirstNet AT&T under the Opt-In option assumes full responsibility for capital expenditures, from installation, operation and maintenance to all other expenses including personnel, training, integration, environmental compliance and program’s entire management,” said Abner Gómez, the director of the Puerto Rico State Agency for Emergency and Disaster Management (Aemead by its Spanish acronym).

The Aemead official explained that it would be preferable for officials who want to use the service to do so with AT&T-connected devices, adding that the Telecommunications Regulatory Board participated in the talks for the agreement.

Ready for Hurricane Irma

The governor also said he would meet Friday with his emergency team to continue the government’s preparations in case of any eventuality.

The meeting will take place a week before the potential arrival of Irma, a major hurricane headed toward the Caribbean that could affect Puerto Rico by the middle of next week.

“We have been able to establish a several protocols and a several meetings with the principals so each person who has a responsibility knows what to do those days, the governor said. “Today we are [pursuing] continuity to make sure everything is clear.”

 

According to FirstNet, it “will transform the way Puerto Rico’s fire, police, emergency medical services (EMS) and other public safety personnel communicate and share information. Specifically, it will:

  • Connect first responder subscribers to the critical information they need in a highly secure manner when handling day-to-day operations, responding to emergencies and supporting large events, like the San Sebastian Street Festival in Old San Juan that attracts more than a quarter million people annually.
  • Create an efficient communications experience for public safety personnel across agencies. This will support emergency response during natural disasters, including severe storms and hurricanes that regularly threaten the territory and its smaller islands of Vieques and Culebra that are especially vulnerable to extreme weather events.
  • Expand and enhance network coverage for first responders, residents and visitors alike across Puerto Rico, its islands and their coastlines.
  • Usher in a new wave of dependable innovations for first responders. This will create an ever-evolving set of life-saving tools for public safety, including public safety apps, specialized devices and Internet of Things technologies.”

 

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