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Another Communications Failure Emphasizes the Criticality of FirstNet

Author: Patrick Flynn

Date: 2015-01-26
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The news in DC recently has been focused on an incident on a Metro train that left one person dead and several injured after riders were stuck in a tunnel on a train that filled with smoke. While the incident is still under investigation, details are coming out about the response. Most recently, reports surfaced about the failure of the fire department’s radios during incident response, particularly those in the metro tunnel where the train was stuck.

Having spent a substantial part of my career in the government technology space, I have heard hundreds of stories like this. We, especially those in the public safety space, are all aware of the communications challenges experienced during the response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but issues on a smaller scale have unfortunately been part of first responders’ daily lives for over two decades.

These problems should largely be coming to an end – and soon – thanks to FirstNet, a state-of-the-art, nationwide, interoperable wireless broadband network dedicated to public safety. It is a culmination of recommendations from the states, public safety community and the 9/11 Commission, and is aimed at improving communications during incident response. The dedicated broadband network will not only ease communications among responding personnel, no matter their jurisdiction, but it will also allow for utilization of advanced communication capabilities.

While it is, as yet, unclear why exactly the radios failed in the DC metro incident, the failure points to the critical nature of communications during incident response. First responders need to be able to rely on their radios and other communications devices. FirstNet will help them do that. And a secure-from-the-start FirstNet will further improve incident response by making that network even more robust and reliable.

Patrick Flynn is the Director of Homeland and National Security Programs, Intel Security.   This guest column originally appeared at McAfee Blog Central and is reprinted here with their permission.



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Posted by: gordonfullerton
Date: 2015-01-27 11:56:20

You note that the reason for the radio failure is no known at this point then conclude FIRSTNET would have solved the problem. That’s a wide leap past the facts. Suggest you find out the facts then look at what FIRSTNET proposes. You will find that no matter what the cause of failure (lack of equipment maintenance, improper coding , etc) FIRSTNET equipment would not have worked in the tunnel without additional, special repeaters dedicated to FIRSTNET equipment. lets put facts ahead of hype.

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