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FirstNet applications for EMS connectivity, situational awareness

FirstNet, the nationwide wireless broadband network dedicated to public safety, is ahead of schedule, under budget and poised to change the practice of EMS


Brent McGinnis quickly envisioned potential uses for FirstNet by EMTs and paramedics.


LAS VEGAS — FirstNet, the high-speed wireless network dedicated to public safety, is on the cusp of improving emergency responder access to real-time data about patient status, vehicle damage and resource availability. Kevin McGinnis, FirstNet board member, described the potential applications for EMS in an education session at EMS World Expo.

As FirstNet nears release and full implementation, it’s important that fire and EMS departments know the latest about FirstNet, begin to prepare their agency implementation and understand potential uses. McGinnis provided a series of potential operational examples to demonstrate how FirstNet will be used by emergency responders.

Brent Williams, FirstNet Senior EMS Advisor, also gave attendees an overview of the FirstNet and AT&T partnership. He also reported that as of Oct. 17, governors of 27 states and territories have already opted into FirstNet. The remaining governors have until the end of the year to opt out of the national implementation, otherwise their state automatically opts in to FirstNet.

Memorable quotes on FirstNet

Here are three memorable quotes from McGinnis on what EMS providers can expect from FirstNet.

“FirstNet is by public safety, for public safety. This is the first federal program that is two years ahead of schedule and under budget.”

“Apps are going to make or break FirstNet.”

“I strongly believe that FirstNet is going to change the practice of EMS.”

Top takeaways on FirstNet

McGinnis quickly envisioned potential uses for FirstNet by EMTs and paramedics. Here are four top takeaways from his presentation.

1. FirstNet can leverage already available apps and devices

The FirstNet lab will be reviewing apps, making sure apps work in the network and verifying apps are virus-free before releasing them through the FirstNet app store for use on the FirstNet network.

McGinnis shared many examples of how FirstNet might leverage already available apps. For example, patient consumer health monitoring devices, part of the internet of things, could be available and accessible to paramedics to monitor patients.

2. Instant access to resource status

FirstNet has the potential to improve situational awareness through real-time display of how police, fire and EMS resources are deployed in a response area. McGinnis showed several diagrams and videos to demonstrate these potential use cases.

3. Injury prediction using in-vehicle sensors

FirstNet technology has the potential to receive crash and damage data from in-vehicle sensors. Algorithms are being developed to analyze that data, predict the probability of patient injury and to help incident commanders dispatch extrication resources before arriving on scene.

4. Telemedicine technology well-suited for rural EMS

McGinnis discussed the potential for FirstNet technology and applications to assist rural paramedics with patient assessment and treatment, especially during prolonged transport from a rural hospital to a regional receiving facility.

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Learn more about FirstNet

McGinnis referred EMS leaders to several websites, including:

Check out these EMS1 articles and resources to learn more about FirstNet.

Greg Friese, MS, NRP, is the Lexipol Editorial Director, leading the efforts of the editorial team on Police1, FireRescue1, Corrections1 and EMS1. Greg served as the EMS1 editor-in-chief for five years. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree from the University of Idaho. He is an educator, author, national registry paramedic since 2005, and a long-distance runner. Greg was a 2010 recipient of the EMS 10 Award for innovation. He is also a three-time Jesse H. Neal award winner, the most prestigious award in specialized journalism, and the 2018 and 2020 Eddie Award winner for best Column/Blog. Connect with Greg on LinkedIn.