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Alaska Quake Proved Value of New First Responder Network

Alaska Quake Proved Value of New First Responder Network

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By David E. Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest

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Alaskans are no strangers to earthquakes. So when the ground began to shake violently in Anchorage on November 30, 2018, residents thought, “Here we go again.” This time, however, the police response was different from that of previous quakes.

The 7.1 magnitude quake just happened to coincide with a trial run of the FirstNet high speed network dedicated to first responders, the Associated Press explained recently.

Congress established the First Responder Network Authority in 2012 to deliver the first U.S. nationwide public safety broadband network. In 2017, the contract to build the secure network was awarded to AT&T.

During the quake and its aftershocks, Anchorage Police Chief Justin Doll and other police officials were able to communicate rapidly and effectively, because they had recently agreed to test the high-speed network on their personal cellphones. “The critical calls made possible by First Net helped responders set up an emergency operations center and coordinate the response to the quake,” AP reported.

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November 2018 Earthquake Was Strongest Quake since 1964

Alaska recorded more than 55,000 earthquakes in 2018, which was a new record, according to the University of Alaska Fairbanks Earthquake Center. The November 30 quake -- the strongest since the 9.2 magnitude Great Alaskan Earthquake of 1964 -- resulted in more than 32,000 power outages, several structural fires and many crumbled roads. However, there were no reports of deaths or major injuries.

“It was just random chance that we had started sort of testing this [service] a little bit before the earthquake happened,” Doll told AP. “I felt a lot more confident rolling it out to the whole agency after we had that kind of trial by fire with the earthquake with just a few phones. I was like, ‘This actually works.’”

Anchorage police officially opted to install the FirstNet service this past January.

With the success of the FirstNet system’s “trial by fire,” it’s likely that other first responder organizations will want to test the system as well.

David Hubler David E. Hubler brings a variety of government, journalism and teaching experience to his position as a Quality Assurance Editor at APUS. David’s professional background includes serving as a senior editor at CIA and the Voice of America. He has also been a managing editor for several business-to-business and business-to-government publishing companies. David has taught high school English in Connecticut and at Northern Virginia Community College. He has a master’s degree for Teachers of English from the University of New Hampshire and a B.A. in English from New York University. In March 2017, Rowman & Littlefield published the paperback edition of David’s latest book, "The Nats and the Grays, How Baseball in the Nation's Capital Survived WWII and Changed the Game Forever."