May 22, 2006
Multi-agency collaboration prepares for Voice-over-IP phones at Firefighter Incident Command Posts
As part of this year's San Diego County Wildland Fire Drill, sponsored by the San Diego County Fire Chiefs Association, held May 15-17 at the Dos Picos County Park, a collaboration between the San Diego Sheriff's Department, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, and HPWREN allowed for a demonstration of Voice-over-IP, or Internet telephony, services that can be used at Incident Command Posts that will be set up for future large fire incidents in San Diego County.
A wireless data connection from the Dos Picos ICP was facilitated by a pre-installed relay on a hill on private property above the park, with clear view of the ICP site and the HPWREN backbone site on Mt. Woodson.
The proximity of relay allows for wireless connectivity from CDF resources at Dos Picos via a small antenna mounted to a vehicle.
HPWREN's two objectives at this year's event was to more involve CDF in the installation and data distribution throughout the ICP, and to assess the usability of Voice-over-IP and video conferencing. The installation and data distribution was greatly facilitated by a new CDF IT person, Doug Mitchell, who took over the installation and made it all work. Mitchell further improved communications by adding more network security capabilities.
A Voice-over-IP capability was enabled by the Sheriff's Department providing several (currently four) phone lines via one of their San Diego facilities with easy access to HPWREN. In addition, they also host the phone line end of the VoIP equipment (FXO). The VoIP telephones (FXS) are then located at the ICP, with HPWREN providing the connectivity between the FXO and FXS sets. This collaborative activity will allow to deploy phone lines during a real fire immediately after HPWREN is providing connectivity to the ICP, and the ICP-local connectivity get established. An additional benefit of this setup will be a phone number consistency irrespective of where the ICP is located, which will be facilitated by moving the ICP-allocated Internet address subnet to the location of the fire camp.
A lesson learned at the fire drill was that one of the lines should be dedicated to FAX services.
For day three of the drill it was decided to also test video conferencing capability. While a professional video conferencing system was only marginally working (for unknown reason, perhaps insufficient bandwidth, which should be investigated separately), video conferencing via Skype worked in all of several tries without problems.
Please note: The product names used in this article are only meant to show some test examples, and they are not intended as endorsements of product suitability to any applications. Your mileage may vary....
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