Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue has deployed Peplink routers and access points to integrate satellite and 3G/4G cellular networks to ensure communications continuity at incidents.
The routers are used within the range of emergency response vehicles, trailers and portable units at incidents. In common with most fire services in the UK, Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue maintains a command vehicle and several deployable units to provide first responders with access to information and communication services to help manage incidents.
Critical ICT systems in the command vehicle range from incident response planning software to detailed digital maps of an area or individual buildings. Since 2003, computers in the command vehicle have communicated with headquarters and the wider internet using a satellite uplink.
However, the satellite system was susceptible to problems if the vehicle was in a location without line-of-sight to the satellite, for example in dense urban areas with high rise buildings or in certain geographic areas.
With the need for more resilience, the service's solutions provider Primetech recommended the Peplink routers to get round the communications problem. Peplink routers and access points allow Ethernet, satellite, DSL, WiFi, 3G and 4G networks to be bonded together to form an aggregated link to increase bandwidth, enhance internet reliability and reduce costs.
Rob Lacey, head of IT, telecoms and resilience for Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “The technology has proven incredibly useful and allows us to use the most effective communication method without requiring a complex failover or reconfiguration process. This simplicity is essential when we are attending an incident.”
In its main command vehicle, Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue uses a Peplink appliance to manage the connection between two satellite receivers on KA and KU bands and two separate mobile broadband connections from two separate providers. The Command Vehicle can also create a separate WiFi network for other users within civil protection or other blue light agencies.
The service has also deployed Peplink in trailer and suitcase-based solutions, giving flexibility to various scenarios when it comes to mobile deployments.