The police chief of Alaska’s largest city hurried out of the department’s glass building after the ground began to shake. Phone lines jammed and even police radios were spotty after a major earthquake, but his cellphone was recently equipped with a national wireless network dedicated to first responders.
Anchorage Police Chief Justin Doll was able to reach other officials who had the new high-speed connection after the 7.1 magnitude quake last year caused widespread damage.
It proved to be a trial run in Alaska for the FirstNet network, which Doll and other commanders had just signed on to test with their personal cellphones. The crucial calls made possible by FirstNet helped first responders set up an emergency operations center and coordinate the response to the Nov. 30 earthquake.
“It was just random chance that we had started sort of testing this a little bit right before the earthquake happened,” Doll said. “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.’”