New communication technology announced for first responders in Columbia

Published: Aug. 19, 2019 at 11:31 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - During an emergency, first responders’ ability to communicate with one another can mean the difference between life and death.

On Monday, the City of Columbia announced a new system that will allow them to stay in touch in the most critical moments.

City leaders including Mayor Steve Benjamin were on hand to announce they have partnered with AT&T to allow first responders to communicate on a platform called FirstNet. It's a network that is exclusive for emergency personnel, so in any given emergency situation when cell service is limited, police and fire can communicate with one another quicker and more efficiently.

The initiative is backed by Congress and the FirstNet Authority is an independent agency within the federal government.

FirstNet is the answer to a problem laid bare in the aftermath of the September 11 terror attacks as first responders had difficulty communicating with each other because cell service was interrupted.

"One of the greatest lessons learned from that attack was the importance that all of our first responders have the proper tools and technology to communicate when it’s needed most,” Mayor Benjamin said.

The FirstNet network now set up in Columbia is the largest in the state of South Carolina. Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins explained the importance and advantages of the new program.

“Communication with us is very important, he said. We have to communicate not only with one another, but we have to communicate with those other agencies as well. So, it gives us the opportunity to do that in a very effective way. Whether we’re at the Williams-Brice Stadium, with a crowd of 86,000 people and everyone is using a cell phone, we’re on this network and we’ll be able to use to communicate with each other very effectively.”

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