Gov’t agencies establish new efforts to secure emergency communications network
As the 2021 hurricane season comes to an end, the Puerto Rico Innovation and Technology Services (PRITS) and the Public Safety Department met with representatives of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) to evaluate the state of Puerto Rico’s emergency communications infrastructure and establish short and long-term work plans.
The Telecommunications Bureau (NET), as well as representatives of AT&T and Liberty Puerto Rico, providers of telephone services and communication equipment used by first responders in times of an emergency, also participated in the meeting.
PRITS Executive Director Enrique Völckers emphasized the importance of the collaborative effort for the effectiveness and agility of mobile communication, which is key to addressing emergencies and saving lives, so the government is taking steps to ensure communications work in catastrophic events.
“The meeting served as a space to review Puerto Rico’s work plan to keep its communications system operating in an emergency, the achievements, and how the emergency communications infrastructure has been strengthened since Hurricane María,” said Völckers.
“We’re pleased to say that we’re more prepared and once the hurricane season is over, we immediately begin to evaluate the actions taken, as well as to plan and establish goals for the next season, among other unexpected events such as earthquakes,” said Völckers.
As part of the projects that the group will be working on to strengthen the emergency telecom infrastructure, there are pilot exercises for disaster simulation and collaboration plans between the public and private sectors, among others.
“We are working together with PRITS and FirstNet so that communication doesn’t fail, and our staff is connected all the time, working as a team for the well-being and safety of everyone in Puerto Rico,” said the Secretary of the Public Safety Department, Alexis Torres.
Likewise, NET Interim President Zaida Corder it is essential that first responders and security agencies have access to the coverage of the telecom network in an emergency.
FirstNet — created following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2011 — allows first responders to have priority access to telecom services to exchange information between agencies responsible for responding to emergencies and serving communities promptly and is used in more than 20 states.
Representatives from FirstNet who participated in the meeting included Doug Clark, Rob LaVielle, Michael J. Fox, Rhonda Bell, and Wilfredo Pereira.