RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. — It's crucial for first responders to be able to communicate in a crisis. Cellphone networks were congested during the Fort Lauderdale airport shooting and Parkland School shooting. Now, officers have an option to avoid delayed or unreliable service in those scenarios.
The Riviera Beach Police Department is the first police agency in Palm Beach County to join FirstNet, a First Responder Network Authority built with AT&T to give first responders priority in network usage.
Everything Riviera Beach police officers need to access in the field, is at their fingertips.
"For them to be able to potentially see a camera of a scene while it's actually going on, just cuts time," said Riviera Beach Police Chief Michael Madden about the demand for high-speed data usage.
Chief Madden said officers can access city video cameras, take and submit pictures of a crime scene and record sworn statements all from their smartphones.
"We know that at any given moment, disaster can strike," said Chief Madden.
That's why joining FirstNet, a nationwide communication platform designed for first responders, was so important. First Responder Network Authority works with AT&T to make sure first responders have a reliable and highly secure connection no matter if there is congestion for wireless services on the network.
"If there's a big incident, a big crisis, think of it as the first responders would be, get permanent use of the HOV lane, meaning they get the highest priority of the network signal so they don't have to compete with those us who are on 95 driving," said AT&t spokesperson Kelly Starling.
Chief Madden said officers are using their cellphones like radios too and FirstNet secures that form of communication also.
"Police officers have days off like everybody else and we might need to tap that expertise from a SWAT commander at a moment's notice," added Chief Madden.
Port Saint Lucie police also joined FirstNet last year. AT&T said police departments have to subscribe to the service, but even if a smaller department can't afford to upgrade all officers to smartphones, AT&T can provide FirstNet to individual first responders.