Emergency teams to get private cell network

Cell Phone (KSN File Photo)

GARDEN CITY, Kansas– The United States Office of Emergency Communications is working on a broadband network geared toward National public safety and Kansas communities are learning about the roll out process and what to expect when the system is up and running.

“Communication is always the most important thing in any kind of emergency situation, when you have good communication that makes people more safe,” said Anthony Cruz, Assistant Coordinator for Finney County Emergency Management.

Even with 21st century technology, there is room for improvement.

“During disasters and other major incidents, the first things to go down is the cellular network, the system gets overloaded. It can’t handle that traffic,” explained Derek Voorhis, an Outreach Coordinator for Kansas Public Safety Broadband.

The solution is a Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network. It will work like a regular cellular network, but only departments with a stake in public safety will have access.

The government agency FirstNet is heading the program. Right now, they’re in their research and education phase and are working to inform departments, like Finney County Emergency Management, about the benefits of the program.

The network will give law enforcement and emergency crews a more reliable source of communication, and they won’t have to worry about increased traffic on public networks interfering with response times.

“Whenever you can make a situation safer, I think it’s a win-win for everybody,” Cruz said.

State and local departments will have an option to buy in and will pay about the same as they do for a cell phone bill.

The price tag for building the network is still unknown…

“Any existing infrastructure that can be used to place the radios, they will use, because this has to be a nationwide system and that’s quite a massive undertaking,” Voorhis said.

Kansas received a $2.25 million grant from the National Telecommunication and Information Administration to work on research and consultation in an effort to prepare for the new system. Research and consultations will continue for the next two years, and then the plan is to build.

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