Texas City ISD Experiences FirstNet Benefits First-Hand
An active shooter false alarm demonstrated the potential for improved communications that FirstNet could provide during emergencies.
With each passing week, more communities are subscribing to FirstNet services. More than 5,250 public safety agencies are using over 425,000 connections on the network today. Schools, colleges and healthcare facilities are also joining the network, sometimes on their own and sometimes in conjunction with their local public safety agencies, to take advantage of the network’s many features and functionalities. One of those satisfied subscribers is the Texas City Independent School District (ISD) in Texas City, Texas.
The district experienced the FirstNet network in action after an active shooter alert was accidentally triggered. The false alarm was called in using FirstNet phones and a FirstNet-enabled application. The app notified school administrators and local public safety officials about a potential active shooter on school grounds. Public safety arrived on scene within 90 seconds because FirstNet provided the capability for school staff to directly alert first responders.
Once on scene, first responders quickly discovered that the alert was a false alarm. Mike Matranga, executive director of security for Texas City ISD, was able to use his FirstNet device and talkgroups set up through the enhanced Push-to-Talk (ePTT) function to quickly notify law enforcement and school administrators of the situation.
“In a matter of two or three minutes, I was able to take what could have been our worst day back down to a normal level,” said Matranga.
Fortunately, this incident was a false alarm, but it gave Matranga and his team the opportunity to see FirstNet provide unbridled communication between law enforcement and school administrators.
This was not Texas City’s first encounter with FirstNet. The City of Texas City was in the process of testing the network in May 2018 when a student opened fire at nearby Santa Fe High School, killing 10 and wounding 13 more. Though not in their jurisdiction directly, Texas City officials arrived on site in Santa Fe with FirstNet devices in hand.
Robert Turner, Texas City IT Director recalled, “We were one of the few people actually able to communicate because of that. Nobody was communicating because they couldn’t communicate. The network was down.”
A few months later when Mike Matranga joined the Texas City ISD, he immediately looked for communications capabilities that would allow responders to have connectivity during an incident.
“Having something as traumatic as that in our community already, I didn’t want our first responders to have to feel that sense of desperation if we faced a similar incident,” he explained.
After conducting thorough research of the solutions available, the school district selected FirstNet.
“I felt very comfortable with the product,” Matranga said. “I was able to make the determination to go with FirstNet, and I think that it’s been a great decision. And I know it makes our [Galveston County] deputies feel at ease knowing that they have a product that’s going to be able to work in a time of need, always.”
Lesia Dickson is the Northcentral area director of field operations for the First Responder Network Authority.