In an emergency, first responders are on the front lines, rushing to save lives and assess critical situations. Communication is an essential need for all emergency personnel, and in large-scale disasters it’s imperative for communication links to reach beyond departmental and geographic boundaries.
Today, first responders in the U.S. rely on more than 10,000 individual radio networks that are often incompatible with each other. Quality of communication between fire, law enforcement, and medical response teams varies greatly, depending on whether or not local organizations have established protocols for sharing information. Even in districts where data flows freely between departments, the piecemeal use of radio, cellular, and other communication methods is restrictive and slow.
With cellular public safety service, emergency personnel across the country will have access to a nationwide broadband network built specifically for first responders. This consolidation of communication will streamline the flow of information between command centers, dispatchers, and responders in the field. And because it’s a cellular network with capacity for high-speed data connections, it will also usher in a new era of emergency response.
Cellular First Responder Network Enables Vehicles to Become Data Hubs
Since the advent of radio communications, there has always been some contact between emergency vehicles, command centers, and dispatchers during emergency situations. But the two-way radio system means responders must pause their rescue efforts to talk to the control center. With the recent emergence of personal camera-equipped cellular devices, some first responders are able to send visual data back to command centers as a situation unfolds, but until now, there have not been hardware and software devices on the market that are specifically designed for emergency personnel.
Because of cellular technology, the nature of first responder communication is changing. Instead of an isolated unit, an emergency response vehicle and even the responders themselves will become a data hub of wireless communications.
Firefighters will rush into a situation wearing devices such as body cams and smart clothing that can track vital signs and location information. Experts at a command center can view incoming video in real-time, evaluate structural dangers and relay advice for moving through the burning building.
Quick Communication Increases Response Quality
First responder networks being rolled out across the country will create pathways for uninterrupted high-speed connections to command centers; free flow of communication between fire, law enforcement and medical response teams; and access to data from wearable devices. All this additional communication—and information—will greatly enhance the quality of emergency responses.
Consider one scenario that would have benefited from the communication channels created with the speed and coverage of cellular. On a spring morning in 2016, the tiny community of Oso, Washington, was devastated by a massive mudslide. Initial reports from emergency personnel on the ground failed to convey the extent of the damage, says General Bret Daugherty, Adjutant General for the State of Washington, in an interview with FirstNet.gov.
“The first responders were so busy just trying to pull people out that they didn’t really have time to stop and put out a message to everybody about what the situation really was like on the ground,” Daugherty says in the video. “Helicopter pilots didn’t take the time to make a radio call to report on what they were seeing because they were concentrated on the mission.” No one understood the extent of the disaster until the next morning, when Daugherty and others flew over the scene.
New emergency response architecture will clear the communication fog in situations like the Oso landslide. With continuous cellular connections between responders and command centers, leaders can assess situations and immediately connect responders to appropriate experts to deal with specific conditions.
In the new world of cellular for emergency responders, connection speed matters. It must be sufficient to support videoconferencing, live multi-streaming of high resolution, high frames-per-second (FPS) video, and other data-intensive communications.
Band-14 Modules at the Heart of These Life-Saving Devices
At the heart of these life-saving cellular solutions for public safety officials are band-14 modules designed specifically for first responder applications. Telit is proud to be the first to introduce a full line of embedded LTE modules and data cards to enable these products and solutions for first responders.
Our LE910Cx-NF series, which just won the 2018 IoT Evolution Product of the Year award from TMC, was designed with the needs of public safety officials in mind. Based on the Qualcomm® MDM9207 LTE modem, this module allows system integrators to quickly bring advanced IoT first responder applications to market cost effectively.