Published By - Brian Curtis

Indianapolis Fire Department Stabilizes Network Connectivity & Takes Management to the Cloud

Indianapolis Fire Department

Protecting a city from fires and other emergencies is a demanding 24/7 job and one that does not remain stationary. The Indianapolis Fire Department knew cellular connectivity was the best option for its vehicle fleet, and that it needed a solution for its fire apparatus that would stand up to extreme conditions.

With an overall metro area population of more than 2 million, Indianapolis is the largest city in Indiana—and the 12th largest city in the U.S. The Indianapolis Fire Department (IFD) has more than 1,200 fire personnel, 300 of whom are on duty at any given time, and protects 278 square miles of territory. The department, which features a fleet of 43 fire engines and 22 ladders, began utilizing in-vehicle data terminals in the 1990s before transitioning to laptops in 2005.

When IFD implemented computer terminals in its fire trucks nearly two decades ago, radio modems were the only option for connectivity. The department used this setup until about 2005 when it shifted to a system utilizing five receiving towers strategically located around the county’s perimeter.

The problem IFD encountered was an inconsistent signal strength, especially during the summer months, when tree foliage is more likely to affect coverage. In 2012, with the radio modem network set to expire, the city determined cellular connectivity was the best option. IFD began using USB based air cards to keep its laptops and other in-vehicle applications connected on the go.

Fire personnel noticed improved network access with the air cards, but not to the level needed during emergency situations. Often simply driving over a bump in the road would knock the connection loose. The IT team made valiant efforts at makeshift fixes such as electrical tape and extension cables, but they recognized that IFD needed a longterm, ruggedized solution that would support an external antenna. Additionally, IFD required the ability to push out firmware upgrades from a central location. Such updates had been both cost and time prohibitive, so the IT team avoided them.
“For one person managing the fleet, it became impossible to go out into the field and touch every device,” said Capt. Dale Rolfson, IT manager for the Indianapolis Fire Department.

To meet its needs for ruggedness and reliability, and to better utilize IT man-hours, the fire department deployed Cradlepoint’s COR IBR1100 routing platforms and Enterprise Cloud Manager (ECM), the network management service available in the Cradlepoint NetCloud platform.

Explore the possibilities available through highly scalable, cloud-managed in-vehicle routers and potential wireless applications from Cradlepoint.

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