Nashville bombing affected multiple states' emergency communications

FirstNet was one of several AT&T services temporarily disrupted when an RV exploded next to AT&T’s central office in Nashville


Brad Harper
Montgomery Advertiser

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The Christmas Day bombing in Nashville disrupted some communication channels for first responders and emergency service providers in Alabama, among other states.

Alabama uses the FirstNet network, a dedicated communications network that provides priority service for firefighters, police, emergency medical services and other public safety workers using AT&T cell towers. FirstNet was one of several AT&T services temporarily disrupted when a RV exploded next to AT&T’s central office in Nashville.

FirstNet was one of several AT&T services temporarily disrupted when a RV exploded next to AT&T’s central office in Nashville.
FirstNet was one of several AT&T services temporarily disrupted when a RV exploded next to AT&T’s central office in Nashville. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Alabama Emergency Management Agency Chief Information Officer Jeb Hargrove confirmed this week that Alabama’s service was affected by the bombing. However, Hargrove said they also use several other systems.

Traditional VHF and UHF are still the primary channel of communication for most first responders in the state, but “the majority of high-population counties” have also invested in dedicated P25 two-way radio and text messaging systems, Hargrove said.

Montgomery County Emergency Management Agency Director Christine Thornton confirmed that Montgomery uses a P25 system for city and county personnel.

Some public safety personnel across the state also rely on other providers, including Southern LINC and Verizon.

“However, a major disruption in the infrastructure provided by AT&T at some level touched many of these other communications services and can have unattended consequences in many communications networks,” Hargrove said. “Some of this is overcome by the conventional radio systems still used in most rural areas and the hardening of other radio systems by using redundant infrastructure to link communications sites.”

AT&T’s central office is Nashville, which houses connection points for regional communications, is an unprotected brick building along a public street. The bombing disrupted communication systems across the Southeast, from 9-1-1 service to hospital computer systems.

The Tennessean reported that the Tennessee Emergency Communications Board has called a special meeting for next week “to address the "impact to 911 operations as a result of the bombing in downtown Nashville."

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(c)2020 the Montgomery Advertiser (Montgomery, Ala.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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