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GCN : September 2015
case study BY AMANDA ZIADEH MOBILE Maryland’s Frederick County installed laptops in fire and rescue vehicles to share real-time data and reduce voice radio traffic County first responders get mobile data system Maryland’s Frederick County has integrated ruggedized Panasonic CF-53 laptops into 172 fire and rescue vehicles to re- duce voice radio traffic and enhance public safety. “As our fire and rescue system gets bigger, voice radio traffic becomes al- most a detriment because you begin to have messages about fire and rescue incidents get mingled together and be- come confusing and in some cases can slow us down,” said Tom Owens, direc- tor and chief of the county’s Division of Fire and Rescue Services. The laptops for first responders and dispatchers provide a better alterna- tive to voice communications. The computers connect with dispatch cen- ters through wireless cellular networks and are connected to the county’s data infrastructure “to provide the best se- curity measures,” said Stephani Stock- man, a software integrator at Freder- ick County’s Interagency Information Technologies Division. Data shared through the county’s private network is encrypted. The laptops use Intergraph’s Mobile for Public Safety 9.1 incident manage- ment software to communicate with the computer-aided dispatch software that the county has used since 2005. The new solution is expected to provide a more seamless stream of real-time data and workflow management. When units are sent to an incident, responders will receive a message through the mobile data terminal that gives them the address and any other pertinent information. Without using radio communications, the dispatch center can track which units and per- sonnel are responding. While en route, responders can re- ceive information about changing conditions at the scene without gen- erating voice radio traffic. The system uses maps generated by the county’s Geographic Information System Depart- ment to pinpoint addresses, locate fire hydrants and reveal blind spots in ap- proaching intersections. GPS data lets responders see the locations of all the county’s other emergency vehicles as they respond to an incident. In addition to saving the county mon- ey and providing immediate, automat- ed information to responding units, the mobile data terminals are expected to ease the workload for 911 dispatchers. “Less voice interaction [and] more work with the computers — which they are doing as part of the regular process anyway — really make the communica- tion process with our responding units much more efficient,” Owens said. Initially, cellular network availability was a challenge, and testing with ear- lier deployments left room for adjust- ments. “We tested for several months in advance in a training environment as well as [with] selected users in the live environment,” Stockman said. To handle the new equipment, first responders, volunteers and career per- sonnel were offered months of hands- on classroom training that included sample call scenarios, refreshers and helpful reference documents. The county-funded project cost $975,000, and the new software has been made available to other local gov- ernment agencies in the area that also rely on mobile data terminals. • 30 GCN SEPTEMBER 2015 • GCN.COM LISSANDRAMELO/SHUTTERSTOCK 0915gcn_030.indd 30 8/31/15 9:38 AM