FirstNet Authority Seeks Responder Feedback on Nashville Explosion for After-Action Review
Wednesday, February 03, 2021 | Comments

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) continued its after-action review of the bombing of an AT&T building in Nashville, Tennessee, meeting last week with public-safety officials and FirstNet subscribers in states that were affected by the service outage.

The December 25 bombing of an AT&T Central Office affected internet and wireless services in Tennessee and some neighboring states. While the FirstNet network infrastructure was not directly impacted by the explosion, FirstNet subscribers in the Nashville area and some surrounding areas experienced outages for several hours.

The outages occurred when batteries powering the communications equipment in the building were exhausted six hours after the blast had knocked out commercial power, and generator power was affected from flooding caused by broken water mains. The FirstNet Authority has been working closely with AT&T, its network contractor, and local, state and federal officials to develop a review of the incident.

As part of that review, FirstNet Authority leadership traveled to Tennessee and Kentucky to hear directly from state and local FirstNet subscribers about the operational impacts of the FirstNet service outage that resulted from the explosion. The FirstNet Authority also held virtual discussions with first responders and public-safety officials in northern Alabama affected by the service outage.

“As we continue to examine what happened during the blast and the ensuing recovery period, we needed to hear directly from the FirstNet users who were impacted by this service outage,” said FirstNet Authority Board Chair Tip Osterthaler, who traveled to Tennessee. “We learned a great deal by talking personally to emergency services organizations and first responders. When we have finished gathering information, we intend to make, and implement, recommendations on how to minimize the risk of future outages on the nationwide public-safety broadband network.”

FirstNet Authority Board Vice Chair and Fire Chief Richard Carrizzo, as well as members of the FirstNet Authority’s public-safety advisory team, also traveled to Tennessee. The on-site meetings in Kentucky and Tennessee involved more than 30 public-safety representatives from local, municipal, state and federal agencies, including the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.

“The meeting was an opportunity to bring together leaders from state public-safety agencies, review the event and outage, and have a robust discussion about the health and resilience of the nationwide public-safety broadband network,” said Patrick Sheehan, director of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency. “I look forward to continuing our important work with the FirstNet Authority as a Tennessee responder and representing emergency managers on the FirstNet Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC), offering our expertise as FirstNet continues evolving."

During its discussions with the PSAC last week, the FirstNet Authority outlined its efforts to develop a comprehensive after-action review of the event and engaged in a dialogue with PSAC members on steps and methods to enhance network resiliency.

“The PSAC appreciates the FirstNet Authority’s transparency regarding the Nashville bombing incident and the opportunity to support their review and response,” said PSAC Chairman Todd Early.

The FirstNet Authority will continue to engage public safety as it develops a comprehensive picture and reviews the impact on public-safety operations. At the conclusion of the consultations, the FirstNet Authority plans to act to enhance the resiliency of FirstNet and help manage risk to the network in the event that incidents like the Nashville explosion take place in the future.

“The FirstNet Authority exists for one reason, and that is to ensure emergency managers and first responders have the communications they need to perform their critical public safety missions,” he said. “Our focus in the coming weeks and months will be to enhance the resiliency of the existing network in light of the threat environment.”

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