January 10, 2006

CDF Puerta La Cruz connects to HPWREN for Camp and ICP support

A new HPWREN connection was completed in December 2005 to provide high speed data connectivity in support of firefighting activities of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) at the Puerta La Cruz CDF camp in the northeastern part of San Diego County. The camp connection will also support network access at the co-located designated Incident Command Post site, which HPWREN provided ad-hoc connectivity during two previous fires before. Past experience with these ICP deployments has shown that high performance networking is a critical requirement even for such remote CDF locations.

CDF will utilize the connection for various first responder support functions including:

  • Real-time weather data affecting crew staffing and fire behavior
  • Departmental electronic communications via CDF's IT server in Sacramento
  • Keeping updated on NIFC situation and advisories
  • Staying current with the general firefighting community
  • Broadband based Firefighting Training classes online
  • ICP connections for incident management support

    Prior CDF site planning, construction and experience in collaboration with CDF Division Chief Rick Henson, IT staff personnel Doug Mitchell and CDF - PLC crews made quick work for this installation. The connection at Puerta La Cruz was made possible by an enhanced collaboration across HPWREN, TDVnet and the San Diego State University Field Station Programs (SDSU FSP).

    CDF had arranged for a mounting pole, concreted into the ground. This supported the installation of the antenna and radio, utilizing a fork lift. The installation connects via a TDVnet site on a mountain at Mesa Grande, utilizing the San Diego State University radio that also connects SDSU's Sky Oaks Biological Field Station.
    PLC antenna pole

    "The HPWREN connection at Puerta La Cruz camp has increased productivity to all of our personnel that use it," describes Division Chief Rick Henson at Puerta La Cruz. "Prior to having this break-through technology, the camp used dial-up connections for its Internet and intra-net communications. On many occasions connection speeds were less than 20 kbps. Because of these incredibly slow connection speeds, the requirement to be continually connected while working specific CDF intra-net programs, reduced production of all of our employees to a snails pace at times.

    I have also had the opportunity to use HPWREN at an incident base. The Border 50 Incident in southern San Diego County in the fall of 2005 was connected to HPWREN earlyon in the incident. As the Incident Commander of a CDF Incident Command Team, the team that assumed command of the Border 50 Incident, it is truly remarkable what high speed connectivity can do to increase productivity at an emergency incident! And speed is of the essence at a large, fast moving wildland fire. From planning, to public awareness, to intelligence dissemination for the internal and external CDF command structure, all of these were greatly improved because of this technology.

    HPWREN has and will continue to be a great asset to our normal workday at Puerta La Cruz camp as well as emergency incident management. CDF and all emergency managers coast to coast can use this type of technology and what is to come out of this technology. It is a great tool now and may become indispensable in the future."

    PLC ICP box

    CDF and their Puerta La Cruz colleagues also installed a support structure for Incident Command Post deployment, for readily available Ethernet and telephony connections. The images show the water-tight Ethernet connectors, which will allow ICP trailers to directly connect to the data infrastructure.

    PLC ICP box

    "As the HPWREN research continues to be proven and expanded upon, so does the CDF partnership with HPWREN," says Matt Streck, CDF Public Information Officer and Fire Apparatus Engineer-San Diego Unit. "CDF and many other agencies respond year round to emergencies requiring a temporary, field located ICP and the associated infrastructure. As my own personal satellite phone has repeatedly shown me, satellite technology is still relatively expensive and remains critically dependent on reliable satellite coverage. My attempts at integrating my sat-phone and laptop computer have been met with not even a marginal success rate. For over 3 years I have been plagued by bad sat-phone uplink connections, computer software/hardware problems or e-mail compatibility issues. Yet I have never had any problem whatsoever using the HPWREN system.

    The development of pre-deployed HPWREN connections like the CDF-PLC connection is an exciting new prospect for emergency responders. As I travel throughout the state each summer from one emergency ICP to another, I have made many repeat trips to the same county fairgrounds, regional park or CDF/CDC Conservation Camp. Each County or CDF Administrative Unit tends to use these same locations year after year. Whether it is the Tehama County Fairgrounds or the Eel River Conservation Camp, these locations consistently lack reliable high speed Internet access. The ability to pre-deploy HPWREN type technology throughout the state, would be of great benefit to all stages of the emergency response process."

    Ron Serabia

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