BRYAN, Tex. (KBTX) - The Brazos County Sheriff's Office became the first local agency in Texas to subscribe to the nationwide public safety network called FirstNet.
Thursday morning, they unveiled their new partnership with AT&T for FirstNet. Some of the demonstrations showed how deputies can pull up various data from suspect information, building plans, to footage patrol cars are broadcasting live in the field. The department has been testing the technology for about two years.
"As part of FirstNet, now that every state and territory and District of Columbia has opted in, AT&T is building out the FirstNet network with the National Public Safety Broadband Network the FirstNet Authority," explained Doug Clark, AT&T Vice President for FirstNet Solutions Consulting.
"The system will serve all of public safety whether that's fire, or Sheriff's Office operations or EMS. It'll serve all of us and we'll be able to be connected together on that system and be able to do our job much more effectively and efficiently," said Sheriff Chris Kirk of Brazos County.
The system was used during Hurricane Harvey flooding and for incidents including a standoff. Sheriff Kirk hopes more agencies will now join the network.
The full press release from AT&T and Brazos County is below:
Brazos County Sheriff’s Office is First Local Agency in Texas to Transform First Responder Communications with FirstNet
New Technologies Expand Our Capabilities to Better Serve Brazos County
BRYAN, Texas, Jan. 25, 2018 – The Brazos County Sheriff’s Office subscribed to FirstNet. This is a big move that will help us stay connected to the critical information we need, so we can better serve the residents and guests of Brazos County.
FirstNet is the country’s first-ever nationwide public safety broadband network being built by the First Responder Network Authority and AT&T. It’s purpose-built for first responders to give us a reliable, high-speed and always-on network connection. This is a game-changer, giving our communications capabilities a major boost. FirstNet helps us address potential rural coverage gaps and, in times of network congestion, prioritize first responder communications when football fans head to Kyle Field.
“It’s absolutely thrilling to have a dedicated public safety broadband network,” said Brazos County Sheriff Chris Kirk. “We’re still doing the same job. But with FirstNet, we can do it even better and faster than before. We have all the information we need at our fingertips, backed by the connectivity needed to access it. And most importantly, it keeps our deputies out in the neighborhoods, so we can spend more time serving Brazos County.”
The top 3 benefits of FirstNet that we have experienced are:
• Improved Efficiency – FirstNet gives us near-instant access to the critical information we need. We no longer have to call dispatch or head back to the office to run a license plate or criminal history check. We can do it all ourselves, right from our vehicles.
• Expanded Capabilities – FirstNet enables us to use data in a new way. This gives us new capabilities that expand beyond what we’ve ever had. For example, we can livestream what our patrol vehicles are looking at and push that to dispatch, other vehicles or the Emergency Operations Center. When you have a prioritized system built for public safety, you can use a lot more of the tools out there.
• Enhanced Situational Awareness – FirstNet gives us near real-time insight into what’s happening, and that has the power to keep us safer and smarter. Our Command Center can tap into a patrol vehicle’s livestream to see first-hand what’s going on. This allows our field officers to focus on the situation versus providing manual updates.
We’re the first local agency in Texas to officially adopt the nationwide public safety network. But we’ve been using the service for a while now through our collaboration with Harris County on its FirstNet early build project. As an early builder, we worked with Harris County to implement the new technology, experiment with it, learn best practices and put it to the test during life-threatening incidents.
From everyday operations to crisis situations, FirstNet proved its value. During two very different situations – a major flood and a standoff with an armed suspect – our field officers positioned their vehicles to livestream what was happening back to the Command Center. We were able to capture different stages of the flooding or different views of the building to best assess the situation, make a plan and create the best outcome possible.
“The Brazos County Sheriff’s Office has embraced this innovative technology, and now, with FirstNet, Brazos County can provide a level of service to its residents that is second to none,” said Texas Department of Public Safety Director of Communications Todd Early. “We are proud of Brazos County for leading the way with this critical new technology, and by sharing lessons learned, they will also help fellow first responder agencies across the state modernize and enhance their life-saving capabilities as well. As we look ahead to what’s next for Texas, we know that Governor Abbott’s decision to opt-in to the FirstNet network will help bring these same capabilities to first responders throughout Texas.”
A lot of agencies operate in silos. But when a major event occurs, you want to be able to share data with mutual aid responders. FirstNet will enable this, giving all levels of public safety the same capabilities. As more agencies join FirstNet – across the state and across the country – it will usher in a greater amount of interoperability for public safety.
Having a nationwide public safety broadband network also means our officers can connect to their systems no matter where they are. We could send an investigator out to another agency, city or state, and we will still be able to communicate with that investigator over our FirstNet-connected systems. FirstNet is the only solution that enables that type of interoperability prioritized over a nationwide public safety broadband network.
“FirstNet is helping us perform at the highest levels. It’s multiplying our capabilities and efficiencies. And this is just the beginning. There’s a bright future ahead for emergency response,” said Sheriff Kirk.
From Harris County to our County Commissioners to the Texas Department of Public Safety, we’ve had a lot of great support in our transition to FirstNet. Plus, working with AT&T, subscribing to the nationwide network was seamless. Our patrol vehicles, Mobile Command Center and the Command Center at the Sheriff’s Office are all now equipped with the new technology.