Wireless network made specifically for first responders in case of mass tragedies

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In times of mass tragedy like the Thousand Oaks shooting and the wildfires burning in California, it's paramount that first responders are able to communicate with one another.

As we saw on One October, mass chaos can make it hard for anyone including first responders to get a call or a text out.

There's now a phone network specifically for first responders.

The First Responder Network Authority is also known as the First Net. The network came about after the September 11 terror attacks. It's designed to keep first responders connected in the case of mass tragedy.

"You realize at that point, that police and fire and EMS are not able to communicate with each other," said Sandra Morgan, Director of External Affairs for AT&T.

First Net has partnered with AT&T to deliver priority broadband service with extensive coverage solely for first responders.

Officials successfully used the service during Hurricane Michael and Hurricane Florence.

At least 3600 agencies across the nation are subscribed with more than 250,000 connections already established.

"Understanding the need for them to be able to communicate with each other in unfortunately a mass disaster or casualty or wildfires or a flood," Morgan said.

A prime example, the night a gunman opened fire on a crowd of more than 20,000 concertgoers here in Las Vegas. Thousands of people all scrambled to make emergency phone calls or send texts, but the high demand left cell towers jammed for everyone including first responders.

Clark County Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Buchanan was there that night

and he couldn't get a signal to connect to his team.

"It just wouldn't go through. There was no connectivity so we had to find other means to find that connection. It was difficult because during an emergency situation you don't want to unnecessarily be on the radio," Buchanan said.

Buchanan went on to say all emergency officials need to have a clear line of communication with one another.

The Clark County Fire Department is now in the process of switching over to First Net.

"It can truly be the difference between life or death, certainly there are pieces of information that must be conveyed very quickly," said Buchanan.

First Net is still in the beginning stages and the company admits they have more work to do, but it is in use and any first responder who wants to sign up can go to their local AT&T store for more information.

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