Pennington County Sheriff's Office joins FirstNet after using the network in Serenity Dennard searches

RAPID CITY, S.D, (KOTA TV) - After using the FirstNet communication broadband network while searching for missing 9-year-old Serenity Dennard, Pennington County Sheriff's Office is officially signed up.

A law enforcement member exchanges an old phone with a new one with a FirstNet representative. (KOTA TV)

The AT&T FirstNet program is a public safety broadband network created to help first responders communicate at all times.

Pennington County Sheriff's Office is one of the biggest agencies in South Dakota signing up.

According to FirstNet State Consultant Doug Penniston, the broadband network was created after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

"They have interviewed first responders not only from 9/11 but from around the country asking them well, what do you need to make sure this doesn't happen in the future," AT&T FirstNet State Consultant Doug Penniston said.

FirstNet workers handed out more than 100 devices including phones and connectivity devices for patrol cars. Law enforcement members came in to exchange their phones Thursday.

There are about four thousand FirstNet subscribers in the state alone.

Captain Tony Harrison with the Pennington County Sheriff's Office said back in February at the start of Serenity Dennard's search, law enforcement struggled to have good reception on their phones. But once an AT&T tower was brought in, communication was flowing better.

"All the AT&T phones had a great signal and were boosted. It's a natural impact of the terrain. It's no ones fault it's that way. It's just the way the terrain is," Harrison said.

Harrison said FirstNet is fast and cost-efficient. He said FirstNet resources show up within 14 hours of being activated. In addition, there is no cost to county taxpayers.