Georgia is not just relying on FirstNet® for immediate and total coverage during emergency situations, but the state is also implementing IoT solutions across the departments of fire, ambulance, police, and emergency management.
As per Warren Shepard, the Manager of Critical Infrastructure and Key Resource Unit, Georgia Emergency Management Agency and Homeland Security, the state became one of the to adopt FirstNet® in 2017, signing an agreement in January last year before the services were rolled out in March back then. FirstNet® is a public-private partnership.
The wireless provider, AT&T®, won the contract, which stipulated that it would manage the public safety network for more than two decades. This applies to all states in the nation.
In one of the interviews with ZDNet, Shepard said to the extent that it was very essential to have a dedicated network for the US public safety agencies, as cellular networks collapse if a natural disaster or emergency situation is to occur.
“The first thing that happens when something bad goes on—everyone picks up their cell phones and calls 911, and then the next thing is FaceTime, or Twitter Live, or Facebook; they’re trying to stream all this data,” Shepard said. “We knew that if we had something happen in the downtown area at that scale that it would grind to a halt, and we wouldn’t be able to get the information that we needed.”
An Example: Hurricane Michael
In October last year, Hurricane Michael caused a landfall in the Florida state, ripping through Georgia. The hurricane caused about 3 billion dollars in agricultural damage, with the US state calculating the expense of damage from collapsed houses.
“We had areas that were complete electrical systems just destroyed, the entire grid. It wasn’t a matter of repairing, it was ‘let’s start over from scratch’,” said Shepard. “But with FirstNet®, we still were able to get communication there.”
In the case emergencies services relied on 4G LTE networks, said Shepard, the agency would have struggled for network coverage in the hardest-impacted areas, particularly along the Georgia-Florida border.
Shepard also said, “One of the providers was saying, ‘we’ve got 85 percent of the network up and functioning’—well, sure it was, in 85 percent of the state, but not in the 15 percent of the state where it was needed. We rely so much on what we use now—our data terminals, mobile computers in police cars, fire trucks, ambulances, emergency management, building inspectors, parking meters, it’s just so much stuff now with the Internet of Things that we’re relying on.”