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Fire district's new 'game changer' mobile response network posted on 09/01/2021

Before this past spring, the Hoodland Fire District (HFD) used iPads connected to cellular networks to manage incidence response data.

“If we didn’t have cell service, we lost everything,” Brian Henrichs, HFD Division Chief for Operations and Training, stated.

That issue was solved when the district acquired and installed Cradlepoint LTE mobile data centers (MDC) for all the district’s emergency response vehicles in May.

The Cradlepoint LTE emergency network greatly improves the district’s ability to access important, time-sensitive information when responding to calls in parts of the district where cellular service is limited, stated Henrichs.

“The (data centers) have been a game changer,” Henrichs said. “We used to have to pay close attention when responding in areas out of cellular range, but the new Cradlepoint network gives us close to real-time data throughout the district.”

Funding for the MDCs was made possible by a Special Districts Association of Oregon coronavirus relief fund grant. The system cost the district approximately $114,000 to equip 12 vehicles altogether.

“This purchase wouldn’t be possible without the coronavirus grant,” Henrichs stated. “It would have otherwise taken the district years to fund the MDCs.”

The district ordered the Cradlepoint system with the grant money in October of 2020, but encountered delays due to the devices being backordered that prevented the district from equipping the vehicles until the spring.

HFD field tested the devices in areas of the district without cellular connectivity before making the purchase and found that the new network provides comprehensive coverage in the Mount Hood communities. The MDCs are equipped with built-in GPS tracker and hard-loaded maps including hydrants and water supply access points to assure accurate location data regardless of data connectivity.

The Cradlepoint network also protects and secures patient data by providing enterprise-grade network security that ensure data remains protected and HIPAA compliant.

“The safeguards on patient information add another protective layer to privacy for the public,” Henrichs said.

The Cradlepoint network makes district firefighters less reliant on emergency dispatchers for incident information and time-sensitive updates. The network updates every 15 seconds assuring the responders have the latest information from police and other first-responders while in-route.

“Sometimes communication with dispatch can be delayed. (The MDC’s) take that delay out of the equation during incident response,” Henrichs said.

The data centers provide the firefighters with multiple layers of maps including Google Earth, a topographical map, and the ability to measure distance from the vehicle to a location on the map. This feature is useful to get a rough estimate for hose lay in the case of a wildfire or structure fire with no direct vehicle access.

The Cradlepoint mobile emergency data network is also utilized by Clackamas County Sheriff’s Department and the Clackamas County Fire District.

Henrichs stated that he was familiar with the system from his tenure working with American Medical Response and had been interested in acquiring the technology since he joined HFD. “It’s a huge benefit for the district,” he said.

For more information on HFD, visit https://www.hoodlandfire.us.

By Ben Simpson/MT

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