Fire District Uses 4G LTE to Connect CAD System & Reduce Response Time & IT Man-Hours
Clackamas County’s Fire District #1 in Oregon requires constant Internet access so Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) systems can accurately send the closest available vehicles to local emergencies. The department’s IT team must be able to monitor and manage its mobile network solutions remotely, reducing the need for in-person IT work that consumes time and money.
Clackamas Fire now easily deploys and manages Cradlepoint COR Series in-vehicle routers through Cradlepoint NetCloud Manager (NCM)—keeping its CAD system and patient data reporting connected 24x7 and enhancing the department’s emergency response time.
Clackamas Fire District #1 is one of the largest fire protection districts in Oregon, serving more than 220,000 citizens across nearly 235 square miles in several cities and unincorporated areas just outside Portland. Based at 20 fire stations in urban, suburban, and rural areas, the organization’s firefighters respond to tens of thousands of incidents every year.
The department’s emergency vehicle fleet—which introduces new technologies with each passing year— includes engines, brush rigs, and medic units.
For several years Clackamas Fire has been planning for its rollout of a Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) software system. The system went live in March 2018, enabling automatic calculations of the department vehicles’ time, distance, speed, and location. When an emergency arises, the CAD system selects the vehicle that will have the fastest and most efficient path to the scene.
“CAD is important because it helps us get to the needs of the public in a timely manner,” said Mark Horst, Technical Services Administrator for Clackamas Fire District #1.
In first responder vehicles that rely on CAD systems and Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) during emergency response, a major challenge is ensuring constant mobile connectivity to GPS data so the dispatches are based on highly accurate information at critical times.
Always-on cellular-based Internet access, along with robust WiFi, also is essential for the ruggedized Mobile Data Computers (MDCs) in each vehicle. Clackamas Fire found Air Cards to be far too unreliable for in-vehicle use. The agency was looking for routers that featured embedded 4G LTE modems—routers that also could provide high-performance WiFi in and around vehicles to help personnel interact with reports in the field.
Clackamas Fire doesn’t have enough manpower to frequently and manually adjust the wireless networking device aboard each vehicle, so another important checkbox for the IT team was a cloud management platform.
Clackamas Fire deployed 38 of Cradlepoint’s COR Series in-vehicle routers, all of which are managed remotely through Cradlepoint NetCloud Manager. The agency has found that the consistency of Internet uptime allows the CAD system to remain up-to-date and consistently make sure first responders are in the right place at the right time.
“With 4G LTE connectivity through Cradlepoint solutions, our CAD system has become more accurate with AVL technology in recommending the closest unit to respond,” said Horst.
CONSTANT 4G LTE CONNECTIVITY FOR HIGHLY RELIABLE GPS TRACKING
Cradlepoint’s software-defined in-vehicle routers with embedded 4G LTE modems provide Clackamas Fire with the always-on connectivity necessary to trust their CAD system during emergencies.
“In the past, we used integrated Air Cards to connect our Mobile Data Computers (MDCs), and they were constantly disconnecting because of the older 2G and 3G technology. Today, with Cradlepoint in-vehicle solutions, cellular connectivity is more consistant in our fire vehicles,” said Horst.
TIME-SAVING DEPLOYMENT, VISIBILITY & MANAGEMENT THROUGH THE CLOUD
The Clackamas Fire IT department uses NetCloud Manager to remotely configure and continue managing Cradlepoint routers by group, which conserves significant man-hours when dealing with dozens of vehicles spread all over the county.
“Through NetCloud Manager, router firmware upgrades within the fleet that used to take about 3 days now are done remotely in about 3 minutes," said Horst.
The IT team also uses NCM to cross-reference AVL information with CAD recommendations to make sure dispatch information is accurate.
ROBUST WIFI FOR TECHNOLOGIES & FIELD REPORTS INSIDE & OUTSIDE VEHICLES
High-performance WiFi provided by the Cradlepoint solution connects technologies—ranging from tablets to specialized fire and HazMat applications — that help emergency personnel do their jobs better both inside and around the perimeter of their vehicles. In Clackamas’ medic units, connection-dependent devices include laptops, which staff use to begin patient reports and other work that can reduce the time to care once they reach the hospital.
If Internet access were affected during a major disaster, the IT team could connect first responders to a secure, encrypted network for patient care and CAD data while placing local residents on a separate public WiFi network.
“During a natural disaster, we could easily just flip on the public WiFi network if approved by the fire chief, tell people the SSID, and get community members connected immediately,” said Horst.