BOONE COUNTY — The Boone County Sheriff's Office is using new technology specifically dedicated to first responders that is expected to improve public safety across the area in several ways.
It's called First Responder Network Authority, or FirstNet for short, and only first responders can access it.
"Now we have actually embedded our SIM cards into our body-worn devices and we are able to track the officers themselves when they get out," said Boone County Sheriff Mike Nielsen.
FirstNet uses a map that allows officers to be tracked and easily found and can also make response times faster.
"If you have a call in the northwest part of our county, they can look and see where the closest unit is and dispatch that unit to that residence," said Maj. Brian Stevenson with the Boone County Sheriff's Office.
That's not the only way this network benefits the average citizen; it also allows first responders to communicate with each other more easily.
"This truly is a game-changer to have these two — our phone and our radio talk to each other,” said Stevenson. "It's just another tool to help us be successful."
The network also gives first responders what's called preemptive service. That means if first responders are making a call during a catastrophic event, it will push their call toward the top of the queue.
The Sheriff's Office says this is critical to keeping people safe.
"It all comes down to making sure that we are able to get people to a call faster, and that’s what it's all about," said Nielsen.
The network also lets deputies tap into an officer's body camera while they are involved in a pursuit. It provides the Sheriff’s Office the ability to operate a mobile command center as well.
Residents of Boone County say knowing first responders have these tools makes them feel safer.
"I think it's great for the county and for citizens here that we can expect and hope for faster response times from all emergency personnel," said Madyson Portish, a Boone County resident.