Cell network helping first responders communicate in emergencies

Local News

Phones have become lifelines.

When we pick them up, we expect them to work.

Not only to make phone calls but to stay connected to the internet and the rest of the world

Richmond’s Verizon switching facility says it handles about 10 million phone calls each day.

That’s not to mention handling roughly 500 terabytes of data in the same period of time.

8News got an inside look at the Richmond facility where the company says half of Virginia’s Verizon customers have data flowing through.

“If you are making a call on your Verizon Wireless phone — a 4G LTE phone call on your Verizon wireless phone — it goes through this facility,” said Kevin King, Director of Corporate Communications for Verizon.

The location of the facility in Richmond is kept private for safety and data security reasons.

But Verizon says along with keeping customers connected, it also keeps first responders connected whenever there’s an emergency.

“I’ve often heard it said that during a disaster, first responders become first communicators,” said King. “That’s the role we’re trying to play.”

Emergency management experts help Verizon understand how crucial it is for first responders to not only communicate with the public but also with each other. 

“Its absolutely central that police, fire, EMS are able to communicate during any kind of an incident,” said Dr. Jerome Hauer, an emergency response expert. “Lives depend on it.”

Hauer led the response to Hurricane Sandy for the State of New York. He now consults with Verizon to help the cell carrier work more efficiently with its law enforcement partners.

Last month brought a new development for Verizon in its efforts to improve communications during emergencies and crisis. 

The cell carrier established the “Public Safety Private Core.”

Its a separate part of the 4G LTE network solely for first responders to connect to.

“In the rare event that our commercial network gets congested because of a lot of people in a particular area or a big event, public safety has its own part of our network where their data communications will remain untouched,” said King.

Verizon was unable to tell 8News which agencies in Central Virginia use its network, or even the new, ‘Public Safety Private Core.’

Both Chesterfield Police and Henrico Police tell 8News they operate on the Verizon cell network, though it is unclear if these agencies have migrated to the new sector of Verizon’s service.

Richmond Police declined to share which cell provider it uses, citing public safety reasons.

Verizon says this new portion of the network is something Verizon public safety customers must choose to migrate to.

More information about the network can be found here.

Find 8News on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram; send your news tips to iReport8@wric.com.

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