Las Vegas Fire & Rescue
Firefighters Go Wireless to Protect the Entertainment Capital
Las Vegas has earned the title of Entertainment Capital of the World, with millions of tourists flocking there every year to enjoy the vibrant atmosphere and warm weather. The continuous influx of visitors means Las Vegas Fire & Rescue officials are tasked with protecting many more than the city's 600,000 permanent residents. This also involves navigating some of the largest hotels in the world, and because every second counts, reliable communication and instant information access are paramount to working effectively.
For years, Las Vegas Fire & Rescue has mounted rugged laptop computers in its fleet of rescue ambulances, fire engines and ladder trucks, enabling responders to access information from their location. To provide Internet access, the city initially deployed external wireless modems that were mounted separately from the laptops and connected with wires. After extended usage, however, problems with this setup became clear. The wires got in firefighters' way, and connectivity issues forced users to frequently remove the SIM cards and try cleaning them.
"We knew our rescue vehicles needed a rugged laptop that featured a powerful and flexible embedded wireless solution," said Bertral Washington, Assistant Chief of Las Vegas Fire & Rescue. "And we found that combination in the Panasonic Toughbook® 30 with the Gobi™ module."
The Toughbook 30 is a fully-rugged computer designed to withstand the rigors of fire/EMS environments. It features a magnesium alloy case and shock-mounted hard drive certified to survive a six-foot drop, and the 1,000 nit touchscreen is bright enough to use in the Las Vegas sunshine. The device is wireless-ready with embedded Wi-Fi and Bluetooth® with optional integrated Gobi mobile broadband.
Responders use the Toughbook 30 and AT&T Wireless mobile broadband network to access TriTech VisiNet™ CAD software with their own GIS information on specific locations. When there's an emergency, firefighters are immediately presented with information they need to strategize the most rapid and effective response.
"We've layered information in our CAD software to not only show us the best route to take, but also the nearest hydrants and crucial information about the building itself: locations of fire control rooms, electrical and gas shutoffs, and more," said Captain James Suarez of Las Vegas Fire & Rescue. "Every responding vehicle is able to access the same information while en route, so we can limit radio transmissions to address other critical details. It has been a huge improvement."
The flexible Gobi module supports AT&T Wireless' 7.2Mbps network upgrade, enabling Las Vegas Fire & Rescue to take advantage of the fastest mobile broadband speeds available in the region. Panasonic designs and manufactures its own embedded antenna in Toughbook computers to maximize signal strength, and Las Vegas' responders have noticed the difference. The location of each vehicle is constantly monitored by dispatchers using built-in GPS, as well.
The temperature inside Fire & Rescue vehicles gets well above 120° F, even without a nearby fire, but the department hasn't yet had a Toughbook computer fail on it due to heat. The city's IT administrators have seen hardware service requests drop tremendously since deploying Toughbook computers, allowing officials to continue focusing on their primary duties.
"The result for our department is a highly reliable solution that helps every firefighter and officer stay informed to work faster and smarter," said Chief Washington. "The end result for Las Vegas citizens and visitors is a safer environment that could save their lives someday."