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.
“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.
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.
“Our priorities – like any first responder/public safety work we do – is uptime and reliability.” – Matthew Garrido. CEO, Verge Networks.
Matthew advised that there are many options for cellular routers that are also capable of remote management and monitoring, but at the same time they are tremendously expensive. Munhall’s priority in this installation is also of uptime and reliability, which Matthew recognizes that Peplink devices does very well at.
“We prefer Peplink because of the value of their remote management and monitoring capabilities.” – Matthew Garrido. CEO, 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 Peplink devices have always performed well, and whenever support is needed, the team has been great to work with.” – Matthew Garrido. CEO, Verge Networks.
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.
“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.
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.
“Several of the MAX BR1s have 220 day plus uptime, and keep in mind those are 220 days in a vehicle.” – Matthew Garrido. CEO, Verge Networks.
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.
“Our residents and firefighters love it!”– Fire Chief Matt Pisarcik, Munhall Bureau of Fire.