Munhall Bureau of Fire & Santa Run, USA
Munhall Bureau of Fire is a municipal volunteer fire department in the Pennsylvania state. They were switched from their local borough dispatch to the Allegheny county dispatch centre, which could provide them with extensive real time data, vital to first responders
In order to receive the large amount of real time data, Munhall needed to upgrade their fire engines’ communication systems first. The fire engines needed MDTs (mobile data terminals) that is equipped with computer-aided dispatch (CAD) software so that communications with the dispatch centre can be established. Instead of using satellite for communication where line-of-sight is often necessary, Munhall chose to communicate over IP, specifically cellular and Wi-Fi where they envisioned being able to prioritize them according to lowest cost. In order for this to work effectively, they needed a router that would be able to roam from each connection almost seamlessly so that the MDT does not lose its connection. Reliability and uptime is also an important factor as communications cannot go down during an emergency.
One major challenge Munhall has to work with is a limited budget. Initially they explored mobile hotspots from various cellular providers but soon came to realize it would not be stable enough for first responder communications. They needed reliable modes of connectivity, high quality, enterprise grade communications equipment as well as a future-proofed network. To keep costs practical, the fire engines would ideally be able to use the station Wi-Fi network when parked and then only switch to 4G LTE when on the road. They consulted their vendor of choice – Matthew Garrido of Verge Networks.
Munhall’s fleet of fire engines were equipped with MAX BR1s and communicates with each other and the dispatch centre through the municipal VPN network. InControl 2 allows for remote management and real time tracking of vehicles. The MAX BR1s proved to be very reliable for Munhall. Matthew reports that devices have 220 days of uptime, and that is considering the harsh conditions the fire engines have to go through for every dispatch. Additionally, roaming between Wi-Fi and cellular connections was so smooth that the MDTs never experienced a disconnection.
With ample bandwidth and connection resilience, future expansions are certainly a possibility. The intention is to expand information access to emergency reporting, code enforcement such as building inspections and permitting, vehicle performance and maintenance, greatly enhancing their fire engines’ capabilities.