Munhall Bureau of Fire & Santa Run, USA

Public Safety | First Responders

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

“We needed a very reliable, high percentage uptime solution and are very happy with Verge and Peplink!”

 Fire Chief Matt Pisarcik. Munhall Bureau of Fire.
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Requirements

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.

“Our priorities – like any first responder/public safety work we do – is uptime and reliability.”

Matthew Garrido. CEO, Verge Networks.
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Challenge

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.

“Some systems have a lag time that causes the MDTs to disconnect for a minute or 2 when switching. We don’t experience that ever with the Peplink hardware.”

Matthew Garrido. CEO, Verge Networks.
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Solution

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.

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Results

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.

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Santa Run

Santarun has been a 20 plus year tradition at Munhall Bureau of Fire. Every Christmas they would have Santa ride on a fire engine through town visiting children and everyone has fun. Fire Chief Pisarcik approached Matthew with the idea on how the location of the Santarun fire engine can be made available to the public for tracking purposes. With InControl2’s API, Verge was able to build a webpage for Munhall’s Santa run event and display on a map in near real-time where the Santa fire engine is. Through the Munhall

Santa run webpage, the community can then follow and anticipate Santa’s arrival on their own street. And through the very same MAX BR1, the Santa crew are also able to upload photos on the fly to their social media channels for their fans. When the Santa season is over, it returns and stays at North Pole, Alaska for obvious security reasons.

Deployment

Peplink InControl 2. Cloud Based SD-WAN Network Management.

InControl 2

Save configuration time, minimize truck rolls, stay on top of the status of your network, and proactively resolve any emerging problems with speed and precision

Pepwave MAX BR1 MK2. Verizon Certified Automatic Failover 4G LTE Mobile Router.

BR1 MK2

Automatic Failover 4G LTE Single Cellular Mobile Router