In the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, Governor Phil Bredesen commissioned a study of the communications infrastructure for Tennessee’s first responders.
This study estimated that Tennessee would need a network of 355 radio tower sites across the state so that from Tennessee’s urban to most rural areas, first responders would have reliable communication coverage. All local, state, and federal agencies would also need compatible radios so that, in the event of a disaster, all first responders could seamlessly communicate with each other anywhere in the state.
TACN’s first implementation phase, TACN 1, began with funding for the Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) to join the existing systems used by the Tennessee Department of Correction and the Tennessee Valley Regional Communication System. This first phase included 104 radio tower sites and other communication infrastructure that served more than 100 agencies including the THP.
TACN 1 included legislature funding to fully implement TACN statewide across Middle and West Tennessee.
During the terrorist attack on military recruiting centers in Chattanooga, the Chattanooga Police Department, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Department of Homeland Security, and state leaders in Nashville used TACN’s interoperability to coordinate their response.
TACN was the only public safety communications system that did not have any major disruptions while first responders fought the 2016 wildfires that swept across Gatlinburg. TACN was used on the ground and to relay vital, real-time information to state leaders in Nashville.
TACN was used heavily during Governor Bill Lee’s inauguration. This was the first time all agencies involved with the inaugural events could communicate on a single platform.
The Christmas Day bombing in downtown Nashville disrupted AT&T’s cellular network and landline communication for days. The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) and other agencies used TACN for 911 response coordination.
The tornados that hit Middle Tennessee in 2020 destroyed one of TACN’s central switch locations, highlighting the need for additional capacity and redundancy. To prevent communication outages, in 2021, funding was approved to create a backup location for each of Tennessee’s 4 regional switching centers.
The THP also upgraded its radios in 2021, to be able to access both the TACN and AT&T/FirstNet systems. The THP donated their late-model refurbished radios to first responders in distressed counties so that these local agencies can access TACN.
The second implementation phase, TACN 2, will add 94 state and 23 local radio tower sites for greater statewide coverage including improved coverage at Tennessee State Parks, within the city limits of each of Tennessee’s 95 county seats, the Memphis Regional Megasite, and all Tennessee interstates and major highways.
TACN 3 builds on the momentum of TACN 2 to add 134 radio sites, which will meet statewide coverage goals established in the 2008 study. With the third implementation phase, TACN will also eliminate duplicate infrastructure, improve coverage for distressed counties, and facilitate participation for state and local agencies.