Illinois joins first responder public safety network

ILLINOIS (KFVS) - First responders across Illinois are now part of a large network that will enable better communication across the state.

Governor Bruce Rauner signed on with FirstNet, an independent federal authority that works to establish and operate the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network. The nationwide broadband network is dedicated to public safety meaning those in the network will get a dedicated 'fast lane' that provides highly secure communications specifically for first responders.

"Opting in to the FirstNet emergency responder network is an important advance for public safety in Illinois," said Governor Rauner. "FirstNet's technology will help us keep important lines of communication open when we most need them."

AT&T has been contracted to build, operate, and maintain the highly secure wireless broadband communications network at no cost to the state

Perry County Sheriff Steve Bareis knows communication among emergency responders is critical and said sometimes it becomes difficult to keep in touch with other agencies.

"We may not always have frequencies that are programmed into our communication system in order to go to something central or if we're going to a state police frequency then we could overload that frequency and it becomes an issue," he said.

Bareis said crime isn't the only time that multiple emergency service agencies to work together.

"In a situation where you have a large natural disaster, phone lines can be overwhelmed and actually communications can get shut down," Bareis explained.

Pinckneyville Fire Department Chief Jim Gielow said most of his department's work stays in the county where current communication systems work fine. However, he said there are circumstances where he needs to be able to talk to responders from outside Perry County.

"If we were going to have a natural disaster a tornado, or train wreck or something like that you know something that is ongoing over an extended period of time where we have other agencies maybe state agencies involved," Gielow said.

Sheriff Bareis said something like FirstNet could not only make the public safer but his deputies too. Especially in a rural area like his where communication lines can go dead.

"I think you're going to lose the dead spots where you lose calls or can't get out and you know those cases you could be dealing with life or death," he said.

"Governor Rauner's decision to join FirstNet demonstrates his strong support and dedication to public safety throughout the state," said First Responder Network Authority CEO Mike Poth. "We are honored to serve Illinois' first responders and deliver to them a reliable, broadband communications network that will help them save lives and protect communities."

FirstNet was established after the 9/11 terrorist attacks when gaps in communications between first responders were identified.

You can read more about FirstNet and what it means here.

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