FirstNet – America’s Public Safety Communications Platform Provided Vital Support in Aftermath of March Tornadoes in Putnam County

AT&T Blog Team
May 5, 2020
Public Safety

FirstNet – America’s Public Safety Communications Platform Provided Vital Support in Aftermath of March Tornadoes in Putnam County

Tornadoes tore a 60-mile path through West and Middle Tennessee March 2-3, devastating many communities including those in Putnam County. As Putnam County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) began to assess the scale of damage, they turned to FirstNet® – the only nationwide network purpose-built for public safety – to provide the critical communications necessary to do their jobs.

FirstNet is built with AT&T in public-private partnership with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority). It’s designed with and for public safety to improve communications across public safety entities nationwide, allowing first responders to easily and quickly communicate with one another during everyday situations, big events or emergencies. This is integral to solving the common roadblock that communications issues have posed on past public safety responses.

“We knew we had damaged cell networks almost immediately, because 911 calls were dropping as the callers were telling us where they were. Our immediate priority became to create a network for first responders to communicate. Having a single network, with Uplift capabilities and deployable assets (SatCOLTs) tailored to our needs, was an essential part of our plan and is why we quickly reached out to FirstNet,” stated Brandon Smith, Putnam County’s Emergency Operations Center manager. “We could not have been happier with the response and the support we received from FirstNet and are continuing to receive as we work through recovery from this devastating event,” concluded Smith.

“The benefits FirstNet brings to Putnam County’s first responders were made clear in the days following March’s deadly tornadoes,” said Putnam County Mayor Randy Porter. “The service and support were first class and allowed for our first responders to focus on the job at hand.”

Within hours, FirstNet deployed dedicated portable network assets, including Satellite Cells on Light Trucks (SatCOLTs) to Putnam County, reinforcing communications and allowing first responders to more efficiently and effectively coordinate their efforts. Part of a nationwide fleet, these assets are available 24/7 and at no additional charge to agencies on FirstNet.

“I can’t thank our first responders enough for the sacrifices they made to help our citizens in the wake of the storm,” said Cookeville Mayor Ricky Shelton. “Many were leaving their families to help others while the tornado was still on the ground and I’m so glad they were doing so while staying connected through the innovative FirstNet network designed specifically for public safety.”

SatCOLTs are heavy-duty mobile cell sites that link to FirstNet via satellite and do not rely on commercial power availability. They provide first responders with similar capabilities and connectivity as a cell tower. In total, FirstNet and AT&T deployed eight assets across Putnam County in the days following the tornadoes to serve both first responders and residents.

“FirstNet helps first responders perform at the highest levels to keep themselves and those they serve out of harm’s way.”

Joelle Phillips, President – AT&T Tennessee

“FirstNet helps first responders perform at the highest levels to keep themselves and those they serve out of harm’s way,” said AT&T Tennessee President Joelle Phillips. “It’s our mission to give these brave men and women the cutting-edge tools they need to safely and effectively achieve their mission, so we were proud to support them when they needed us most.”

The land mobile radio (LMR) network tower – which is public safety’s traditional two-way radio system – serving Cookeville and the surrounding area was damaged by the storm. In the storm’s immediate aftermath and the days that followed, FirstNet served as the primary line of communications for first responders supporting search and rescue and recovery efforts.

“Reliable communications are critical when responding to an emergency, and the enhanced capabilities provided to first responders following last month’s tornadoes helped keep our public safety professionals and families safe,” said State Senator Paul Bailey.

“As we work to keep our communities safe, consistent connectivity is vital, and this support in a time of a crisis brought much needed access to first responders across the area,” said House Representative Ryan Williams. “Reliable coverage in rural communities – combined with the tools and services available through FirstNet – have been a game-changer for first responders in Tennessee.”

Additionally, to support the President of the United States’ trip to Tennessee to tour the devastation, a local first responder agency requested a FirstNet dedicated deployable asset to aid their communication and further enable interoperable coordination across the federal, state and local agencies on duty during the presidential visit.

“FirstNet is the only nationwide, high speed broadband network designed specifically for public safety,” said FirstNet Authority CEO Edward Parkinson. “We look forward to supporting Putnam County and all of Tennessee’s public safety community with FirstNet, making sure it delivers what they need and when they need it for decades to come.”

To learn more about FirstNet, go to To learn more about subscribing to FirstNet, contact Debbie Wells at 865-789-9728 or [email protected]. Individual first responders can also subscribe to FirstNet at a local AT&T store.

FirstNet and the FirstNet logo are registered trademarks of the First Responder Network Authority.  All other marks are the property of their respective owners.