Cell phone company creates more towers to help first responders

The late evening news on KEVN Black Hills Fox Monday-Friday
Published: Apr. 21, 2023 at 7:41 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - More than 20 years ago first responders during 9/11 lost connection with cell service and radio systems, which spark a call to fix communication used by public safety officials.

That’s where FirstNet comes in. They are a broadband communications program built with AT&T specifically designed for public safety throughout the country.

FirstNet currently covers 99% of the U.S. population, and now the company is working to put more towers in rural areas, to not only help first responders but also customers who use AT&T.

“Anytime you can increase your footprint as far are wireless or data communications that’s good not only for the public but also for emergency services to be able to access that. A lot of our communications, data sharing, for emergencies, etc. all occur on these networks. So, increasing that footprint is a good thing for everybody,” said Jerome Harvey, Fire Administrator of Pennington County Fire Administration.

Several cell towers were placed in the Black Hills to help provide coverage for areas that have limited to no service. The coverage will cover gaps in Pennington and Custer counties and focus on areas near or around tribal lands.

“For example, firefighters are in the area fighting wildfires, hopefully not this summer but if they are then the connectivity will be there for them to be able to communicate with one another. And it will make things a lot more safe for public safety as well,” said Cheryl Riley, state president of Northern Plains State AT&T.

FirstNet gives first responders in South Dakota connections to the information they need by enhancing signal strength.