FirstNet Provides Support to Tribes in COVID-19 Fight
Thursday, December 17, 2020 | Comments

The National Tribal Emergency Management Council (NTEMC) is coordinating logistics and packaging food and medical supplies to support tribal nations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic across 32 states. And, it has turned to FirstNet for much-needed connectivity.

The FirstNet team at AT&T has deployed a dedicated FirstNet portable cell site (SatCOLT) to help ensure NTEMC and other public-safety personnel have the connectivity they need. And it is providing in-building networking solutions to the Foundation of Sustainable Community, doing business as Farmer Frog logistics center, in a remote area of Woodinville, Washington. That’s where NTEMC has established an incident command, and staff on site are using FirstNet Ready devices with AT&T Enhanced Push-to-Talk EPTT, which is FirstNet Certified, to communicate and coordinate efforts via a shared talkgroup.

“The rapid support we received from the FirstNet team at AT&T to give us the communications we require was like nothing we’ve ever seen before,” said Lynda Zambrano, executive director, NTEMC. “Having a FirstNet SatCOLT available to us has been an invaluable asset to our mission. I’m encouraged to see that FirstNet has stepped up to support tribal first responders during this unprecedented public health crisis. It gives me confidence knowing that we have a network that will be there when and where we need it.”

Public-safety agencies on FirstNet have 24/7 access to a nationwide fleet of deployable network assets like satellite cell on light trucks (SatCOLTs) at no additional charge. And the FirstNet Response Operations Group, led by former first responders, guides the deployment of these assets based on public safety’s needs. These assets link to FirstNet via satellite and don’t rely on commercial power, so they give public-safety capabilities and connectivity similar to a cell tower.

“Public safety, public health and transportation agencies are coordinating in nearly unprecedented ways to respond to COVID-19,” said Bob Bass, president, AT&T Washington. “Providing responders with dedicated communications assets was a top priority for the public-safety community when creating FirstNet. And, now it’s helping them be faster and more situationally aware on the frontlines. We couldn’t be more pleased to support the public-safety mission and bring tribal first responders greater access to the connectivity they need.”

FirstNet lets first responders communicate across agencies and jurisdictions. This allows emergency personnel, public health workers and other medical staff to effectively communicate and coordinate their efforts.

“We are pleased to see that the FirstNet deployable program is connecting first responders in tribal nations as they serve on the frontlines of the COVID-19 health crisis,” said First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) Authority CEO Edward Parkinson. “The FirstNet Authority remains steadfast in our commitment to providing tribal first responders across the country with a secure, reliable network built to meet the needs of their life-saving mission.”

NTEMC, working in partnership with Farmer Frog, received several grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Washington State Department of Health. This allowed NTEMC staff to provide food and aid to tribal nations affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The group is also translating COVID-19 safety messaging into the indigenous languages of several tribal nations, as well as other minority communities the group serves. NTEMC has been delivering food and medical supplies to tribal nations throughout 32 states, including California, New Mexico, Arizona, Oklahoma, Alabama, Louisiana, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho and Washington.

FirstNet also has been on the front lines with tribal nations across the country as they work to combat the coronavirus. Navajo Nation, the largest tribal reservation in the country, has had one of the highest COVID-19 infection rates per capita in the United States. To provide critical connectivity for federal and tribal officials responding to the crisis, the FirstNet Response Operations Group worked with Navajo Nation to deploy two SatCOLTs on the reservation: one SatCOLT in Arizona and the other in New Mexico. And, FirstNet installed a portable cell site and positioned an in-building network enhancement to support a tribal emergency operations center and COVID-19 testing site on the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation in Keller, Washington.

NTEMC has been providing emergency management support and coordinating with tribal councils, tribal emergency managers and tribal public health officers across the country who are working to protect tribal communities hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Tribal communities as far away as Scammon Bay, Alaska, and some of the largest tribes, like the Navajo Nation and the Colville Tribes, have received aid from NTEMC as they combat the pandemic.

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