FirstNet, the nationwide public safety broadband network, announced that it is creating Emergency Drop Kits for first responders. FirstNet, a public-private partnership between AT&T and the First Responder Network Authority, is partnering with ruggedized cellphone provider Sonim on the kits.

In an announcement last week, AT&T explained that the portable kits will envelop first responders in a 300-foot “connected bubble.” Inside the bubble, public safety professionals will be able to maintain constant communication and better coordinate their response to public emergencies.

“To create the Emergency Drop Kits, we’re pulling in expertise from public safety and across the industry,” said Chris Sambar, senior vice president, AT&T-FirstNet in a statement. “The kits will make it even easier for first responders to stay connected to the full capabilities of their network – no matter where their mission takes them.”

The drop kits are designed with natural disasters in mind, specifically wildfires and hurricanes. AT&T explained that the kits are best suited for use during emergencies in rural or remote areas, or areas where communications are temporarily unavailable.

As for how the drop kits work, AT&T explained that either incident commanders can drop in the kits for raid connectivity to the FirstNet network, or first responders can carry the kits into the fields themselves. The kits are only designed to be a stop-gap measure until a FirstNet dedicated deployable arrives.

The Emergency Drop Kits will include a router with a First-Net ready modem and Wi-Fi. This will serve as a secure and reliable data communications hub for four Sonim mobile phones. The phones will be equipped with an Intrepid Response app which will show each first responder’s live GPS location in the field. AT&T notes this capability will “help improve public safety’s situational awareness.” The entire kit will fit inside a 25-pound Pelican case, along with the power supply.

FirstNet customers can expect the kits to be available for purchase in the online portal within the next six months, according to Ryan Fields-Spack, director of public safety strategies for FirstNet, who spoke with Route Fifty.

FirstNet also will be placing liaisons in each state Emergency Operations Center (EOC). Under the new program, dubbed Response Operations Program, FirstNet will use liaisons to improve situational awareness on how best to use deployable network assets. Once the program is fully underway, liaisons will be available 24/7 during incidents to support state EOCs.

“First responders don’t just deserve their own network and communications platform. They deserve a true network partner,” said Fred Scalera, director of public safety strategy and policy, AT&T-FirstNet, and a former public safety official. “That’s what they are getting with FirstNet and the new Response Operations Program. As their partner, we don’t control where deployable assets go. Public safety does.”

If successful, FirstNet hopes to grow the program and place liaisons in county and municipal EOCs.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs