RI first in the nation to deploy new disaster response tech

West Bay

CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — When disaster strikes, communication is crucial.

That’s why the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency and Gov. Dan McKee announced Tuesday that first responders will soon start using some groundbreaking technology.

These so-called “Compact Rapid Deployables” are mobile units that use satellite connectivity to make sure first responders have access to cellular and wi-fi coverage wherever they are.

“During the tragic events of 9/11, it was determined that due to the extraordinary amount of cell phone usage, critical first responder messaging was lost,” RIEMA Director Marc Pappas said. “First responders will be prioritized in the system so they will be heard above all of the noise in the cell tower, even in remote areas like the woods it will work.”

Rhode Island is the first state to deploy the devices, which were provided at no cost by AT&T and FirstNet.

“No doubt, the past year and a half of COVID has underscored how important it is for our public safety officials and heroes to have the best possible tools and resources,” added Patricia Jacobs, president of AT&T’s Northern Region.

The company behind the technology, FirstNet, also launched an animal therapy program. They have 30 dogs stationed around the country, including in Rhode Island, which can be deployed during crisis events to support first responders’ mental and physical health.

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