FirstNet: Nationwide secure broadband network + communication tools for first responders

February 10, 2018

We’ve been writing about the progress of FirstNet in our enews since Mar 2014 (and Oct 2014 and Mar 2015). And now that AT&T is the official provider of services for FirstNet, the dedicated communications platform created with first responders for first responders is helping to enable simpler, safer, faster and more collaborative communications.

FirstNet will give the public safety community the 21st-century communication tools it needs to help save lives and keep communities and first responders safe.

As of late-December 2017, all 50 states, 5 U.S. territories and the District of Columbia officially Opted-In to FirstNet, so now FirstNet and AT&T have a clear line of sight to deliver a nationwide platform and communications tools being built for public safety officials.

The foundation of the FirstNet service is a highly reliable highly secure broadband network dedicated to public safety. This is the first time public safety communications will be based on global standards like Global System for Mobile Communications, realize the benefits of economies of scale, and see rapid evolution of advanced communication capabilities, on a network designed for public safety users.

Why is the FirstNet network a necessary and relevant undertaking?

Whether they’re responding to a local emergency or supporting a disaster in another city or state, public safety deserves a network that will be there for them whenever and wherever they need it. This unifying network will allow first responders and other public safety personnel to communicate across different agencies and jurisdictions throughout the country. Given current difficulties in doing this, the FirstNet network will allow public safety entities to better coordinate when jointly responding to human-caused and natural disasters.

Who can subscribe to FirstNet?

Subscribers can include primary user and extended primary users:

  • Primary users are public safety personnel whose primary mission and job is to provide services to the public in the areas of law enforcement, fire suppression and prevention, or emergency medical services.
  • Extended primary users are other entities that provide public safety services, and include individuals, agencies, organizations, non-profit or for-profit companies who are not primary users, but who may be called upon to support public safety personnel with the mitigation, remediation, overhaul, clean-up, restoration, or other such services that are required during the time of incident or post-incident. Extended primary users may be called on a temporary or on-going basis.

How does FirstNet compare to what’s currently available to public safety?

Today:

  • Networks get congested in disasters and emergencies, making it difficult for first responders and other public safety personnel to communicate, coordinate and do their jobs.
  • The public safety community uses more than 10,000 radio networks – which creates difficulty when trying to communicate across agencies or jurisdictions.

With the FirstNet network:

  • First responders and other public safety personnel will access one highly secure, nationwide, interoperable communications network that will support voice, data, text and video communications.
  • Public safety will have dedicated access to this network in times of crisis– their communications needs will come before non-public safety users.
  • FirstNet will also deliver specialized features to further the public safety mission, including priority, preemption and more network capacity; a resilient, hardened connection; and an applications ecosystem with innovative applications and services.
  • Devices connected to the network – such as wearables, drones and vehicles – will relay near real-time information to improve situational awareness and, ultimately, help save lives both of public safety responders on the front lines and the communities they protect. Mike Zeto, general manager of AT&T Smart Cities, sees a unique opportunity to bridge public safety’s capabilities with the Internet of Things (IoT) ~ read more on USFRA.org.

What types of devices will work on FirstNet?

Public safety users have access to an expansive catalog of LTE devices, ranging from purpose-built rugged units to the world’s most popular smart devices and tablets, complemented with a wide range of accessories. FirstNet enables public safety customers to get the priority, coverage, and interoperability they need without sacrificing choice in the devices they require to get the job done. Additionally, FirstNet will establish Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) capabilities to support volunteers and other personnel who use their personal devices for their public safety work if they meet the applicable requirements.

FirstNet rate plans support a wide variety of smartphones, tablets, laptops, modems, and network-ready devices using Android®, Apple® iOS, BlackBerry®, and Windows® Phones.

As of 22-Jan-2018 Mike Poth, First Responder Network Authority CEO announced AT&T launched a brand expressly designed for FirstNet products and services. Having a specialized brand and logo will help public safety identify the FirstNet solution and lifesaving technologies the network offers first responders across our nation.

How will this network withstand natural disasters, such as flooding or hurricanes?

The first line of defense against network impact from natural disasters is a hardened, strengthened network. AT&T builds network infrastructure to meet or exceed national standards and local wind and earthquake load requirements. They have continued to strengthen the network in hurricane-prone areas by:

  • Installing back-up and permanent generators at critical cell sites and switching facilities
  • Locating critical equipment in less vulnerable areas
  • Locating electronics critical to network operations above expected flood levels
  • Protecting physical facilities against flooding

Additionally, AT&T will provide power to the network in case commercial power is lost by adding more generators for use immediately after a storm hits. They will also place switches and generators critical to network operations in upper floors of buildings in case of flooding. AT&T has already elevated key distribution facilities in many low-lying areas and upgraded electronics in many locations, replacing copper wiring with fiber optic cable.

Learn about FirstNet network and services, rate plans, solutions, devices and apps, events and more at www.FirstNet.com.

And visit www.FirstNet.gov to learn about FirstNet’s programs and activities, including its consultation and outreach with public safety, the State Plans process, and how the Board plans to ensure the FirstNet network meets the needs of public safety – every day and in every emergency.

You can also find updates and an RSS feed in the U.S. First Responders Association’s FirstNet group

 

Source: Fedhealth 1Q2018 enews

Advertisements

Project Loon and its LTE balloons bring internet service to Puerto Rico

October 24, 2017

Google’s parent Alphabet has deployed Project Loon and its LTE balloons to Puerto Rico bringing Internet service to the island.

In a 20-Oct-2017 blog penned by Project Loon head Alastair Westgarth, the company says it’s working with the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Aviation Authority, FEMA, and other cellular spectrum and aviation authorities to bring connectivity to parts of the island still suffering in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Loon’s official LTE partner for the initiative is AT&T, which is helping Loon use its fleet of stratospheric helium balloons to bring functions like text messaging and minor web browsing access to Puerto Rico residents who have LTE-equipped smartphones.

Mr. Westgarth writes … “Since our first sizable tests in New Zealand in 2013, Loon balloons have flown more than 26 million kms around the world. Thanks to improvements in balloon design and durability, many balloons stay airborne for more than 100 days, with our record breaking balloon staying aloft for 190 days. This is the second time that Project Loon has been used to connect people after a disaster. In early 2017, Project Loon delivered basic internet connectivity to tens of thousands of people in flood-affected zones in Peru in partnership with the Peruvian government and Telefonica.”

Below is a short Project Loon video…

 

Learn more about Project Loon at https://x.company/loon/

 

Sources: Project Loon blog, The Verge and TechTimes

Photo and video: Project Loon


Google SOS Alerts can help during an emergency or crisis

July 26, 2017

Google has announced a new set of features in Google Search and Maps called SOS Alerts that activate during major natural, man-made, or humanitarian disasters.

During a crisis, people need real-time information. Whether they’re experiencing an issue on the ground or trying to understand the situation from afar, Google wants their products to give people quick access to important information—such as what is going on and where it is happening—to help them stay safe and informed.

For people using Google Search to learn more about a crisis, SOS Alerts connects them with news, maps, and whenever available, updates from local authorities, emergency resources, donation opportunities, and more—all organized in one place for easy access and sharing.

For people using Maps to find out more about a crisis, SOS Alerts provide live updates about what’s going on in the area, as well as direct access to emergency resources, such as hotline numbers.

Google Public Alerts complement SOS Alerts by helping local and public authorities communicate emergency messages specifically related to official weather, public safety, and earthquake alerts.

The tech giant developed SOS Alerts in partnership with FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), the Red Cross and local emergency authorities.

The below image is an example of what a Google search result might look like in an area dealing with wildfires:

Sources: Google Crisis Response, Google blog and NextGov

Save


CDC Blast Injury mobile application (free iPhone or iPad app for first responders)

April 29, 2017

The CDC Blast Injury app supports pre-hospital and hospital healthcare providers and public health professionals in preparing for and responding to terrorist bombings and other mass casualty explosive events.

Healthcare providers and public health professionals can use the application to:

  • Quickly review critical steps to take from the moment an event happens.
  • Learn blast injury patterns and treatment considerations.
  • Scan information efficiently with minimal effort on the way to or at a scene and grasp clinical guidance to support key job functions.
  • Access medical surge capacity guidance including information on facilitating health systems emergency communication.
  • Find special populations treatment considerations (e.g., women who are pregnant, children)
  • Link to the full breadth of CDC’s resources on blast injuries and mass casualty explosive events.

The CDC Blast Injury app for iPhone or iPad is available for free on iTunes


Open for Business and OFB-EZ (Free business continuity tools from IBHS)

July 25, 2013

Sharing IBHS’s cool products spotlighted in our July 2013 enews

America has over 23 million small businesses employing about half of the private labor force. The last thing owners want to think about during these tough economic times (or any time for that matter) is a natural or man-made disaster impacting their bottom line.

However, research shows at least 25 percent (and potentially as high as 40 percent) of small businesses do not reopen after a major disaster. Those that do, often struggle to stay in business.

By planning in advance, the odds of a company surviving and recovering from a disaster increase dramatically. Many small and mid-sized businesses and groups think that developing a continuity plan can be complicated and costly. Most don’t invest the energy and money into preparing for the unexpected.

But some free business continuity tools can help change that…

Free solutions from IBHS

The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) has developed a streamlined business continuity program for small businesses that may not have the time or resources to create an extensive plan to recover from business interruptions.

Open for Business (OFB) is the Institute’s comprehensive business continuity planning program, and the new OFB-EZ tool is a streamlined kit intended for the use by the very small business owner.

Knowing what risks they face, how to contact key suppliers, vendors and employees without access to electronic records, how to access data, and where to go for help will give small businesses a jump start on recovery if the worst happens.

“Spending a few minutes to plan now will save time and money later,” said Gail Moraton, IBHS Business Resiliency Manager. “OFB-EZ takes into account just how busy small business owners are and focuses on the most important things they must do to be better prepared.”

How can these tools be available at no cost?

IBHS is an independent, nonprofit, scientific research and communications organization supported by the property insurance industry. The organization works to reduce the social and economic effects of natural disasters and other risks on residential and commercial property by conducting building science research and advocating improved construction, maintenance and preparedness practices.

Howard Pierpont, Board Chair of DERA (The International Association for Disaster Preparedness and Response), has been involved in the review and comments portion of various OFB tool developments since 2005. Pierpont’s 40 years of Business Development, Business Management and Business Continuity experience, combined with his passion to help educate the public about preparedness, are a testament to the types of volunteer experts IBHS has involved with their OFB platform.

The key now, Pierpont explains, is to get the word out to the small and mid-sized businesses, community associations and others about these free tools so they can be better prepared.

OFB-EZ: For the small business owner in the know

According to IBHS, to get started, a business owner should download the free OFB-EZ toolkit and go through each of the eight modules below. Once finished, the next step is to print out multiple copies of the final plan for quick access in the office in a safe, off-site location and save the files to a flash drive.

  • Know Your Risks – Evaluate the extent of your business’ vulnerability to disruptions.
  • Know Your Operations – Identify your key business functions and processes and decide how long you can go without being able to perform each of them.
  • Know Your Employees – Keep employee contact information updated to locate them after a disaster, inquire about their safety, and inform them about the status of your business operations, where and if they should report and what to do following a disaster.
  • Know Your Vendors, Key Contacts and Key Customers – Keep contact information for your key customers, contacts, suppliers and vendors up-to-date.
  • Know Your Information Technologies – Protect your company’s hardware and data.
  • Know Your Finances – Establishing clear strategies and procedures for controlling costs, reporting information to appropriate organizations and clearly budgeting for and tracking what is actually spent during a significant disruption can have a positive impact on the business’ bottom line performance and recovery.
  • Know Where to Go For Help – Maintain a channel of communication with community leaders, public safety organizations such as the police, fire and emergency medical services, government agencies, utility companies, and others
  • Know When to Update and Test Your Plan – Schedule regular reviews and updates to your plan.

With OFB-EZ, IBHS is leading the way toward greater resiliency for the even the smallest of business operations. Business continuity planning is constantly evolving in response to improvements in technology and the increased demands on everyone’s time.

“OFB-EZ focuses on the best practices of business continuity planning,” said Moraton, “It is disaster resilience for a modern world where cutting through the clutter can be challenging.”

Learn more about OFB-EZ … and find other IBHS tools, videos and a vast library of preparedness research and resources at www.disastersafety.org or follow them on Facebook or Twitter, and share ideas with others in your community.  


Cell phones and the ick factor (cootie facts + cleaning tips)

April 1, 2013

We read an article last week about a thief in Uganda who contracted the deadly Ebola virus from a cell phone. It turns out he stole several phones from patients at a hospital and one belonged to a man with hemorrhagic fever (which recently killed 16 people in the African nation). The thief was caught when he returned to the hospital for treatment.

Photo: NIAID (MRSA)The story was a good reminder about how nasty cell phones are.

Think about all the places you use and place your phone every day.

Then remember … germs thrive in warm environments and smartphones generate heat .. plus your hands, face, mouth and body heat (if you carry your phone in a pocket) all add to the cootie cocktail.

Did you know… cellphones carry 10 times more bacteria than most toilet seats..?!

Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona, explains while toilets tend to get cleaned frequently, because people associate the bathroom with germs, cellphones are often left out of the cleaning routine.

Tests of eight random mobile phones from a Chicago office found “abnormally high numbers of coliforms, a bacteria indicating fecal contamination,” reports the Journal, with about 2,700 to 4,200 units of the bacteria on each phone. (Drinking water is supposed to have less than one unit of the bacteria per half-cup.)

Scientists say the sort of bacteria found in the study can result in flu, pinkeye or diarrhea. “People are just as likely to get sick from their phones as from handles of the bathroom,” Jeffrey Cain, the president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, told the Journal.

While the above test sample is small, a 2011 study in Britain showed one in six mobile phones were contaminated with fecal matter … and a 2009 study involving the phones of 200 hospital staff members found that 94.5 percent of the phones were contaminated with some kind of bacteria, many of which were resistant to multiple antibiotics.

So how do you clean a phone?

Phone companies caution against using most household cleaners since they are too harsh and may damage the coating on touchscreens. Apple’s manual specifically says “Don’t use window cleaners, household cleaners, compressed air, aerosol sprays, solvents, alcohol, ammonia, or abrasives to clean iPhone.” BlackBerry’s manual states: “Do not use liquid, aerosol cleaners, or solvents on or near your BlackBerry device.” It’s best to use a very soft, nonabrasive cloth that is slightly damp or a cleaner specifically designed for touchscreens, like Monster’s iClean.

TLC’s How Stuff Works explains the most important tip for cleaning your cell phone is to be gentle. Swabs and cloths should be soft and lint-free. Cleansers should be pure and mild. And unless it’s absolutely necessary, don’t open up the case. Not only will you void your warranty on some models, but you’re likely to cause more problems than you solve.

As far as the touchscreen, TLC has a list of “don’ts”…

  • Don’t use Windex or any other glass cleaner with ammonia. The harsh chemicals will damage an LCD display over time.
  • Don’t use a paper towel – not even a wet one — because the rough fibers can scratch the display surface. Use a microfiber cloth like the one that came with your glasses.
  • Don’t spray anything directly on your device. Water and electronics don’t mix. Lightly moisten a cloth and wipe it down

TLC explains there are plenty of disposable wipes on the market designed to both clean and disinfect cell phone surfaces. But if you want to save money, simply moisten a cloth with a prepared mix of 60 percent water and 40 percent isopropyl alcohol, available at any drug store. Isopropyl alcohol evaporates quickly as it disinfects, ensuring that no moisture seeps into your phone’s circuitry.

cyberclean goo helps clean smartphone keypadsTo clean out crumbs or debris in crevices, a moistened microfiber cloth or Q-tip might do the trick, but again, check your phone manual first so you don’t void your warranty.

Another cool product to clean and disinfect your phone (and other items) is Cyber Clean® – a gloopy substance that is safe to use on many electronic devices. Cyber Clean Home & Office is a natural, biodegradable cleaning compound that is proven to eliminate more than 99 percent of germs commonly found on different surfaces.  Thanks to its unique membrane system, dirt and bacteria are locked inside the compound. It’s easy to use and leaves no residues, which makes it perfect for cleaning electronics such as phones and intercoms, stereo equipment, computers and keyboards, as well as gaming equipment and controls.

And one of the safest and coolest tools is a UV disinfectant wand because its light rays kill germs without touching the phone. The UV-C light wand says it kills up to 99.9% of germs and comes in handy for all types of handheld devices, ear buds, keyboards, remotes and many other gadgets and household items where germs can thrive.

uv wand sanitizes cell phones and other devices

UV wands can range in price from $30 – $100 or more and come in all shapes and sizes – even travel size (although we’re not sure what TSA would think about it..?!)

Bottom line … there are many different ways to clean the cooties off your handheld devices and please feel free to share your tips or tricks in the comments.

p.s. If you are an frequent user of Apple store devices, just think about how many nasty things are thriving on their touchscreens. Ick.

Stay safe and have a great week! j & B


Turning body heat into clean energy

March 25, 2013

Tegwear body heat into energyDid you know … someday the heat that YOU produce might power your personal electronics..?!

Spectrum reports Perpetua Power’s TEGwear Technology is developing a chip that converts body heat into electric energy .

“We absorb the heat from your body, and that heat is funneled through a thermoelectric generator that converts it into electric power,” says Perpetua Power Vice President Jerry Wiant. The result: a single, square-inch TEGwear chip generates enough power (up to 3 volts) to run anything from the accelerometer in your pedometer to the wireless headset for your smartphone.

The physics behind TEGwear is basic: Your body is always generating heat, even when you are asleep. And heat, regardless of the source, excites electrons. The flow of electrons, in turn, generates electricity. The tricky part is harnessing enough electricity to power a small device. Wiant says TEGwear will do just that, as long as the chip is either touching your skin or separated from it by only a thin layer of clothing.

TEGwear-powered devices are still in development and won’t hit the market until 2014. But this clean technology has many potential applications, from mobile health to national security.

The company demo’d the device on a new Swatch Touch watch at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas a few months ago. In addition, they have a grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a prototype wristband to track Alzheimer’s patients as well as funding from Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Division to power wearable devices used for surveillance operations.

turning body heat into clean energyThey have also partnered with several private companies to develop body-powered smartphone accessories (like headsets), health-monitoring devices (such as wearable heart-rate monitors), and military applications (like monitoring a soldier’s vital signs and location while on a combat mission).

Sounds kinda Matrix-ish … with very cool potentials for the preparedness industry.

Sources: Government Technology, io9.com, Fastcoexist


%d bloggers like this: