Emergency responders in Missouri can expect improved communication

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COLUMBIA - Missouri has become the 34th state, in addition to two territories, to accept a nationwide public safety network.

Gov. Greitens chose to opt Missouri in to the wireless broadband plan offered by FirstNet and AT&T, in order to improve first responder communication.

Tom Hurley, Deputy Director of Boone County Emergency Management, said he’s happy with the governor’s decision.

“It’s the best plan to move data forward regarding the public safety sphere,” he said.

While Hurley said radio covers a vast majority of Boone County, the biggest downfall in communication lies with transferring data. He said FirstNet should help that issue.

Assistant Chief Brad Fraizer of the Columbia Fire Department said anything that enhances communication for emergency responders is always a plus.

“Anytime there’s a natural disaster or an emergency of any kind, where there’s large numbers of people involved, we see cellular phone usage start to escalate,” he said. "And then it gets harder for emergency responders to transfer data."

With the network, first responders will now have priority in cellular communication.

According to a FirstNet release, the state's network solution was created from what the Missouri public safety community said it specifically needed.

“[This includes] expanding coverage beyond what is currently available, particularly in rural areas,” according to the release.

However, Hurley ultimately said it’s too early to know what’s in store for the network.

"It’s going to take some time to build the infrastructure locally and statewide,” he said. “Once that's done, we’ll be able to better understand it.”