HARRISBURG, Pa. -- It's important Pennsylvania State Police and other first responders have the ability to communicate efficiently during crises. Right now, they're looking at the best ways to make that communication easier and faster.
Cellphones put communication in the palm of our hands, but these same devices, which connect us so easily can also be problematic for first responders during large scale emergencies, blocking the necessary signal needed to communicate. There's a solution, though: FirstNet.
During an emergency, the first thing you want to do is pick up your phone and call 9-1-1 or text a loved one.
During major crises, thousands of people doing so can become problematic for first response agencies.
"A good example with us, the PSP, was the Eric Frien manhunt a few years ago," said Corporal Adam Reed, Pennsylvania State Police.
It becomes an issue when thousands are calling and texting, and fire, EMS, and police must do the same thing but are limited by network availability.
"That was a case where you had multiple agencies, not only law enforcement, but other first responder agencies working together, and the need for information sharing was really great," added Cpl. Reed.
After the 9-11 tragedy, the United States government saw a need to better the communication between first responders. FirstNet was created, a partnership with AT&T and the first public safety broadband network for first responders.
Similar to an express pass at a theme part, FirstNet gives first responders communications top priority so they can share the necessary data without complication.
"These improvements could be very valuable to the citizens of Pennsylvania and the men and women of the state police. Anytime we can embrace technology to do our jobs better, that's something we're going to look into," said Cpl. Reed.
Pennsylvania would have to opt in, though, and adopt FirstNet as the statewide plan. Then, FirstNet could change infrastructure and increase the spectrum to make sure first responders can share data as needed.
"Things like picture, video, different things like that to help us do our jobs better," explained Cpl. Reed.
FirstNet is not the only solution, though. State police are looking at a number of options to improve emergency communication.
"It's going to be up to us with the PSP to take a look at the options that are out there and make a recommendation to Governor Wolf. Ultimately, it's going to be the governor's decision, whether to opt into the current format with AT&T or to go another avenue," said Cpl. Reed.
Pennsylvania State Police tell Fox 43 it will take time before anything is decided.
They are working with Governor Wolf to find the best plan for the state; that plan could be rolled out between 2018 and 2022.