AT&T Launches Animal-Assisted Therapy for First Responders

Originally published at about.att.com. AT&T is a DiversityInc Hall of Fame company.

 

In advance of the 2021 storm season, FirstNet, Built with AT&T — the nation’s only network built by public safety, for public safety — is introducing “ROG the Dog” animal-assisted therapy to support public safety on the front lines. This new initiative builds off of the launch of the FirstNet Health & Wellness Coalition and reinforces our commitment to Be There for America’s first responders by further supporting the health and well-being of those who serve their communities each and every day.

Compared to the general population, first responders experience higher rates of depression, PTSD, burnout, anxiety and other mental health issues. In law enforcement, one study found a more than 20-year difference in life expectancy compared to the average American male. In addition, it’s estimated 20-25% of all first responders experience post-traumatic stress. Therapy dogs are proven to have a positive impact on mental and physical health. Studies have shown that interacting with animals can improve coping and recovery, enhance morale, decrease stress, and reduce the effects of PTSD and emotional distress.4 And as public safety’s partner, we have a responsibility unlike any other wireless carrier to deliver for the first responder community. That’s why we’ve gone beyond our commitment to build and operate FirstNet and are providing this unique type of support to keep them mission-ready.

Affectionately named after the FirstNet Response Operations Group (ROG) – the team led by former first responders, that guides the deployment of the FirstNet fleet of dedicated deployable network assets – ROG the Dog is actually a fleet of trained Labradoodles who specialize in animal-assisted therapy for first responders. We’re collaborating with Global Medical Response (GMR) to provide the therapy-dog services that are specially meant for times of crises following natural or man-made disasters. GMR chose Labradoodles as their therapy dog breed because of their temperament, they are hypoallergenic, and well suited to providing calm and care in the middle of chaos. The ROG the Dog initiative is currently comprised of over 30 animals located across the U.S.

To strengthen public safety’s command and control of their network, we launched the FirstNet Response Operations Program in 2018. This program aligns with Homeland Security’s National Incident Management System with a focus on life safety, incident stabilization and property conservation. With FirstNet, public safety agencies have access to a dedicated, nationwide fleet of 80+ land-based and airborne portable cell sites, like FirstNet One – all at no additional charge. The deployable network assets are designed to keep FirstNet subscribers connected to the information they need, no matter where their mission takes them. This allows first responders to make rescues, communicate and coordinate their emergency response, or aid in recovery, even in the hardest-hit areas or most remote parts of the country.

When public safety calls upon the FirstNet fleet for additional support, the FirstNet Response Operations Group works with the agency to assess the situation and either deploy an asset, or identify and provide alternate solutions that could better serve public safety — such as expediting network restoration, quickly turning-up indoor coverage, and now, providing therapy dog services following a crisis. So far this year, public safety has requested support more than 125 times for planned and emergency events covering everything from COVID-19 vaccination centers to winter storms.

Agencies on FirstNet can request ROG the Dog in the same way they request an asset from the FirstNet fleet. And just like the fleet, ROG the Dog is available at no additional charge. Simply, call 1-800-574-7000 or contact their FirstNet Solutions Consultant and the Response Operations Group team will work with you to determine if your request meets the requirements for therapy dog services.

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