DENVER—Dispatchers, call-takers and other personnel working in public-safety answering points will have priority access immediately to FirstNet—and preemptive access by the end of the year—FirstNet officials announced this week during the APCO 2017 show.

“When they came out with the list of people with first access, first priority for FirstNet, 911 professionals are included in that group,” Bill Hinkle, FirstNet’s senior 911 adviser, said Sunday during a session exploring the relationship between 911 and FirstNet. “So, 911 will have the same level of access that our first responders have.”

When FirstNet awarded AT&T with the contract to build, maintain and upgrade the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) during the next 25 years, it was announced that fire, EMS and law-enforcement personnel would be considered primary public-safety users. With this designation, primary public-safety users will have priority access on FirstNet—initially, AT&T’s commercial network—immediately and “ruthless preemption” capabilities when that functionality is implemented by the end of the year.

Many public-safety officials advocated that PSAP personnel also be included in the category of primary public-safety users, noting that critical dispatch communications to officers in the field should not be subject to being blocked or degraded by commercial-traffic congestion that tends to occur when emergencies arise.

Dave Buchanan, FirstNet’s director of state consultation, said this sentiment was expressed widely by the state single points of contact (SPOCs) during a meeting in Dallas that was conducted shortly after FirstNet released its initial state plans on June 19.

“One of the pieces of feedback that we’ve gotten through the release of the state plans is making call centers, PSAPs and those employees that work at PSAPs amongst those who have the priority and preemption in the top tier of eligible users,” Buchanan said Monday during a presentation at APCO 2017. “It’s great feedback that we got. We made that improvement to the state plan, and that will be part of the offering going forward.”