Local Advocacy Toolkit

First Responder Voice


A Local Advocacy Toolkit Produced by First Responder Voice
March 2019

Click here to download the toolkit.

Getting Started
Educating Yourself and Your Department
Subscribing to FirstNet
Advocating for Your Community’s Communications Needs
Additional Resources
Further Reading


This toolkit covers the three phases that you will need to move through - Education, Subscription, and Advocacy - to become a more informed and better advocate for your community’s emergency communications needs.

Why FirstNet?
First responders face unique challenges when preparing for and responding to natural disasters and public safety crises. In 2019, as first responders face unprecedented weather events, unpredictable emergencies and fast-evolving technology, communications equipment should no longer be one of those challenges. The time for FirstNet is long overdue.

FirstNet is the nation’s first interoperable LTE broadband network specifically dedicated to public safety. The recommendation to create the FirstNet network came from the 9/11 Commission after review of the communications challenges experienced by public safety during the response to the September 11, 2021 terrorist attacks.

Following a competitive bidding process, AT&T was selected to build and operate the FirstNet network. All 50 states, 5 territories and the District of Columbia have opted in to the plan submitted by the First Responder Network Authority and AT&T to design and build the state Radio Access Network (RAN) portion of the dedicated wireless broadband network for their public safety communities.

AT&T will have exclusive access to build-out and deploy Band 14 “high-value” spectrum capacity and coverage throughout the nation and spend approximately $40 billion over the life of the 25-year contract to deliver FirstNet. The network expects to include a range of features and benefits available to qualified subscribers including an exclusive, separate network core for public safety with end-to-end encryption, priority and preemption, no throttling in the U.S., and local control, among other benefits.

The buildout of the network will be supervised by the First Responder Network Authority, an independent authority within the U.S. Department of Commerce. The Authority is committed to making sure that FirstNet meets the needs of public safety.

Becoming a FirstNet Community
Disasters never affect just one individual, or one individual public safety agency. Mitigation, preparation, response and recovery require communication and coordination between first responders, local government agencies, community residents and other affected groups. FirstNet promises to upgrade our communities’ communications abilities, potentially helping to save lives in the process.

Becoming a FirstNet community is about much more than just subscribing to FirstNet. At its core, this work is about staying educated and active in the effort to continuously improve emergency communications. This toolkit covers the three phases that you will need to move through – Education, Subscription, and Advocacy – to turn your community into a FirstNet community.

Please direct all questions regarding this toolkit to First Responder Voice. Email: [email protected] or Phone: 302.760.9427.


FirstNet offers numerous potential benefits for your department and community, including an exclusive, separate network core for public safety with end-to-end encryption; priority and preemption; no throttling; and local control.

To increase awareness about America’s first nationwide interoperable LTE broadband network dedicated to public safety, First Responder Voice is offering educational materials to equip frontline first responders to act as advocates for their communications needs.

These materials can and should be shared with other first responders in your department and any decision makers who can assist in upgrading your communications resources.

FirstNet Education Checklist

Still Unsure About FirstNet? Request a FirstNet consultation for your agency or department! If your agency or department would like to request a FirstNet consultation, please contact First Responder Voice by email: [email protected] or by phone: 302.760.9427.


In order to make subscription to FirstNet as seamless as possible, it is important to be clear about what type of FirstNet subscription is available to you as an individual and/or to your agency. FirstNet offers two types of subscriber accounts:

  1. Agency Paid User account
  2. Subscriber Paid User account

You can apply online to set up your individual or organization FirstNet account at www.firstnet.com/signup

How to Subscribe to FirstNet 
You can purchase FirstNet in one of two ways*:

1. If your agency has a qualified FirstNet contract,** your agency must verify your eligibility. You then receive an email with instructions to complete your user profile and get an authorization code, you can use to purchase FirstNet online or at your local AT&T store.


2. If your agency does not have a qualified FirstNet contract,*** you can visit your local AT&T store with your agency I.D. You’ll make your purchase and then have 30 days from activation to successfully complete the online eligibility verification process. Make sure to tell them that First Responder Voice sent you!

Have questions? Call 800.574.7000 to speak with a FirstNet Customer Support Specialist

*To purchase as a Subscriber Paid User, you must be verified as (a) a current employee of a qualified Primary User Public Safety Entity, or (b) an active volunteer affiliated with, and providing services or performing functions in the areas of law enforcement, fire protection, emergency medical services, or emergency planning and management (e.g., 911 call dispatching) for, a qualified Primary User Public Safety Entity. FirstNet service requires an AT&T Wireless Customer Agreement and a separate FirstNet-related account for which you are personally liable. You will be limited to one FirstNet Mobile plan/ line of service. After initial verification, you will be subject to periodic re-verification. If it is determined that you are not a valid Subscriber Paid User (whether because you do not successfully complete the verification process or you lose your eligibility for any reason) or that you have more than one FirstNet Mobile line of service, we will, in our sole discretion, suspend and/or terminate your FirstNet service (which will result in the full outstanding balance on your installment agreement, if any, becoming immediately due) or switch you to an AT&T consumer plan.
**Requires a FirstNet contract with a Subscriber Paid Foundation Account
***Available only if your agency does not have a FirstNet contract or has a contract but does not have a Subscriber Paid Foundation Account


FirstNet advocacy can take many forms depending on the type of FirstNet subscriber you are.

Paid Department Advocacy:
If you are interested in subscribing to FirstNet and are a current employee of a public safety entity and your device is issued and paid for by your agency, take your advocacy efforts to the next level by:

  1. Talking to your Chief or Department Head about FirstNet and its potential benefits for your agency. You can refer them to Phase I of this toolkit.
  2. Advocating for a supplementary FirstNet contract if your department is already served by another wireless service provider. This enables the department to get to know the new service and compare it to existing options. Learn more about how to obtain Grant Funding for FirstNet Projects in the Additional Resources section of this toolkit.
  3. Educating your local city council members or county commissioners about the benefits of FirstNet for your department.

Volunteer Department Advocacy:
If you are an active volunteer with a public safety entity and you use your own device for your first responder service work, take your advocacy efforts to the next level by:

  1. Educating members of your volunteer fire department about FirstNet and its potential benefits. You can refer them to Phase I of this toolkit.

Community Advocacy:
FirstNet serves not only law enforcement, fire rescue and EMS personnel (known as Primary Users), but also certain utilities, public works, transportation, hospital personnel, and others that participate in or support responses of Primary Users. These certain personnel are designated as Extended Primary Users for the FirstNet network. Take your community advocacy to the next level by:

  1. Educating utilities, public works, transportation and hospital department heads and personnel about the potential benefits of FirstNet for coordinating with first responders during emergency crises.

Interested in demo’ing FirstNet devices with your department? Please contact First Responder Voice by email: [email protected] or by calling: 302.760.9427.


First Responder Voice Monthly E-Newsletter
Sign up to receive the First Responder Voice monthly e-newsletter in your inbox. The newsletter includes in-depth analysis and special features related to FirstNet and emergency communications along with relevant news items, upcoming events, and FirstNet subscriber updates.

First Responder Voice FirstNet Subscriber Directory
Find FirstNet subscribers near you with First Responder Voice’s FirstNet Subscriber Directory. The directory is updated weekly and includes a sampling of agencies and departments whose members have already subscribed to FirstNet to take advantage of the network’s benefits and features. The directory is not comprehensive, but is intended to offer a small window into some of FirstNet’s early adopters across the nation.

FirstNet Certified™ Applications

  • CrisisGo: an incident management platform that coordinates alerts, messages, and notifications through communication and IoT devices across first responders, safety and security teams, organization stakeholders, and their communities.
  • ESChat: allows users to communicate on a 1:1, adhoc and Group basis. ESChat provides eight distinct Talk Group types each customized to fill a particular mission.
  • Explorer for ArcGIS: a lightweight mapping app and data viewer from Esri that allows first responders to create, markup and interact with their maps, even offline.
  • GD E-Bridge: a HIPAA secure mobile telemedicine solution that provides intelligent hospital-EMS multi-media notification, voice and video communications and documentation systems.
  • Intrepid Response: a situational awareness solution that provides near real-time location data on a feature-rich map, and rapid media sharing among team members.
  • Lookout for Work: a cybersecurity application that protects first responders from the entire spectrum of mobile risk including mobile phishing attacks, malicious and risky apps, and device and network threats.
  • NetMotion: a mobile virtual private network (VPN) and quality of service (QoS) solution that helps to optimize and secure application traffic.
  • Orion Push to Talk iOS 5.2.8: voice-enabled platform for real-time workforce communication and collaboration
  • Pulsara: mobile-first platform that enables clinicians to exchange patient-specific information through alerts, messaging, audio clips or video chat during time-sensitive emergencies, no matter the location or type of illness or injury.
  • PulsePoint: helps first responders save lives by crowdsourcing immediate care through CPR-trained citizens, allowing them to view alerts about nearby cardiac emergencies.
  • SceneDoc: a mobile-first platform for digital evidence management and data collection to assist investigators in the field.
  • Tango Tango: mobile push-to-talk app that includes group and one-to-one calling, GPS tracking, emergency alerts, and text/media group messaging with integration to existing two-way traditional land-mobile radio networks.

Grant Funding for FirstNet Projects
All Things FirstNet offers resources and information on how to go about pursuing grant funding for FirstNet projects.

Webinar Series: All Things FirstNet’s three-part webinar series can help state, local, and tribal entities, public safety entities and public safety consultants navigate and understand the nuanced aspects of applying for grants.

  • Understanding the Grants Process for FirstNet Projects (Part I)
  • Understanding the Grants Process for FirstNet Projects (Part II)
  • The Basics of Grant Management (Part III)

A Guide to Grant Funding in Support of FirstNet


Georgia homeland security: We rely on IoT and FirstNet for emergencies and disasters
Tech Republic  |  3/15/19
Search and rescue, body recovery teams, and homeland security coordinators are all using FirstNet in Georgia, with many workers carrying FirstNet phones as their “primary and almost sole means of communications” when they’re working in the field. “They’re switching to FirstNet for that reliability, that assured connection, the quality of service that’s offered, the priority and pre-emption, enhanced push to talk” - Warren Shepard, Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security Manager of Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources Unit.

Data sharing, cost savings incentivize Local EMS to adopt FirstNet
FirstNet  |  1/18/19
“Based upon the savings and the persistence of the cards, and our network communications, we made the decision to change our vehicles over to FirstNet, and it’s been a positive decision because it’s saved us money and it’s been reliable.” – Assistant Fire Chief Jack Rupp, Plain Township Fire Department

California fire chief encourages early FirstNet adoption, cites cost savings, potential mission-critical use in 2024
Urgent Communications  |  1/11/19
“We’re all-in on FirstNet. If you’re wavering and you’re not on it, now is the time to get onto FirstNet and explore it.” – Chief Erik Newman, Stockton Fire Department

Florida City turns to AT&T, FirstNet for connectivity during aftermath of Hurricane Michael
Urgent Communications  |  10/26/18
Officials in Panama City Beach, Fla., relied on AT&T FirstNet for communications in the wake of Hurricane Michael, which caused outages in the jurisdiction’s broadband and LMR systems, according to City Manager Mario Gisbert.

Washington firefighters respond after Verizon intentionally slowed data during fire fight
Kiro 7  |  8/22/18
“The incident that appears to have happened in California, it’s a perfect illustration of why we made the switch to FirstNet.” – Chief Rick Marshall, Renton Regional Fire Authority

Port St. Lucie, Florida police becomes part of FirstNet program
WPTV  |  8/8/18
“Whether it’s a regular routine call for service or a natural disaster, catastrophe, it allows us to have priority communications during those events.” – Assistant Chief Richard Del Toro, Port St. Lucie Police Department

Rural Pennsylvania fire company captain adopts FirstNet
All Things FirstNet  |  7/2/18
“We just recently switched the phone in the ambulance to FirstNet. Not only is it saving us money each month, we believe the service is more reliable both now and in the future.” – Captain Justin Schrek, Beaver Springs Fire Company 

First Responder Voice

First Responder Voice is a project of the Communications Workers of America (CWA).

CWA represents 700,000 workers in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, working in telecommunications and IT, the airline industry, news media, broadcast and cable television, education, health care and public service, law enforcement, manufacturing and other fields.

CWA was an active member of the Public Safety Alliance that was instrumental in supporting the creation of FirstNet.

FirstNet is being built, operated and maintained by AT&T, the union wireless carrier. CWA represents 40,000 technicians, retail associates and customer care agents at AT&T Mobility across the country.