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How this firefighter won a fight with Verizon to improve the lives of first responders everywhere

For advocating on behalf of first responders in everything from reliable internet to better healthcare, firefighter Adam Cosner is one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People of 2019.

How this firefighter won a fight with Verizon to improve the lives of first responders everywhere
[Illustration: Artur Tenczyński]
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Fast internet service is about more than just streaming Netflix shows. Firefighters need it to track rapidly changing conditions and communicate across rugged terrain. During last year’s Mendocino Complex Fire–the biggest wildfire in California history–a Verizon billing glitch caused the wireless giant to throttle the Santa Clara County Fire Department’s “unlimited” 4G access, putting lives on the line. Adam Cosner, a county firefighter, spoke out immediately, using a Reddit AMA to shame Verizon into establishing new wireless plans for first responders, featuring truly unlimited data, no usage caps, and priority access. Cosner also testified before the state legislature last summer to campaign against fire retardants used in products such as electronics, upholstered furniture, and mattresses. (“They don’t slow blazes but do release carcinogens,” he says.) He collaborated with the California Center for Functional Medicine for ongoing health audits of his fire station, monitoring such variables as nutrition and sleep to better understand things like cancer, post-­traumatic stress disorder, and suicide. “Firefighting has changed,” Cosner says. “Health and wellness have become our biggest factor.”

About the author

Sean Captain is a Bay Area technology, science, and policy journalist. Follow him on Twitter @seancaptain.

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