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HPWREN News

August 16, 2007

2006 First Responder Survey of HPWREN Connectivity Deployment for Incident Command Posts

2003 Coyote Fire

HPWREN's first Incident Command Post data connectivity deployment during the 2003 Coyote Fire. Shown is the relay close to the ICP itself, which connected via a further ad-hoc relay on the side of the Palomar Mountain range to an HPWREN backbone node in the Cuyamaca mountains.



Since 2003, the HPWREN project has been involved with public safety networking deployment, specifically in the context of creating data communications for Incident Command Posts, from where firefighting efforts for large wildland fires were managed. To understand first responder networking requirements, HPWREN staff administered a survey in the summer of 2006.

In summary, there were 19 responses to the informal survey. Not all responders answered every question. Of those:

  • 100% responding strongly agree or agree that overall a system that provides high-speed Internet connectivity has more advantages than disadvantages.

  • 95% of these respondents strongly agree or agree that high-speed Internet connectivity would be very compatible with their current technology.

  • 94% strongly disagree or disagree that a system that provides high-speed Internet connectivity will be somewhat difficult for them to use for Internet and email access.

  • 94% strongly agree or agree that a system that provides high-speed Internet connectivity meets several technological needs of first responders located in remote incident bases.

  • 89% strongly agree or agree that high-speed Internet connectivity will help them improve efforts at remote incident base sites by providing better access to real-time data than their current system.

  • 89% strongly agree or agree that high-speed Internet connectivity will help them improve personal communication with family members during remote incidents by providing improved access to email and/or VOIP Internet phone.

  • 89% strongly agree or agree that high-speed Internet connectivity will allow them to disseminate information to fellow first responders, staff in Sacramento, and applicable publics in a more efficient manner.

  • 89% strongly agree or agree that a system that provides high-speed Internet connectivity will improve work production at remote fire stations and camp facilities by providing better data connectivity to access email, mandated reports, intranet programs and real-time data than their current system.

  • 89% strongly agree or agree that they will be able to use a system that provides high-speed Internet connectivity for incident management purposes, without changing the structure of their procedures during remote incident management.

  • 83% strongly agree or agree that they will need little specialized training to use high-speed Internet connectivity.

  • 78% strongly disagree or disagree that they will have to acquire the help of a technical person to help them with the use of a system that provides high-speed Internet connectivity.

  • 78% strongly disagree or disagree that they are not very knowledgeable about technology and do not currently feel comfortable using a system that provides high-speed Internet connectivity.

  • 72% strongly agree or agree that when all things are considered, benefits of a system that provides high-speed Internet connectivity outweigh costs.

  • 68% strongly agree or agree that they will be able to use a system that provides high-speed Internet connectivity for personal communication purposes, without significantly changing the way in which they currently communicate with family members when on location.

  • 58% of the respondents always do work during remote incidents that require Internet and/or email while the remaining 42% sometimes do work during remote incidents that require Internet and/or email.

  • 50% of the respondents always use specialized computer equipment during remote incidents while the remaining 50% sometimes use specialized computer equipment during remote incidents.

  • 68% of the respondents always use the Internet access at remote incident base sites while 26% sometimes use the Internet access at remote incident base sites.

When respondents were asked to rate their degree of concerns relative to security related aspects, the greatest concerns were data integrity (i.e., data not altered), privacy of transmitted data, and privacy of a who-talks-to-whom matrix (like phone bills).

When the 19 respondents were asked what they currently use for data connectivity during remote incidents, the answers ranged from satellite links (2) and DSL/cable (2) to cell phones (5) and whatever is available (5).

Among the 19 survey respondents, seven of them use a laptop as their logging method while six first handwrite their notes and then input the data into their computer. Meanwhile, one respondent logged directly into a PDA from the field.

The respondents use their data connectivity for the following tasks:

  • reports - sending and receiving (8 respondents)
  • download maps and/or GIS data (8 respondents)
  • email (6 respondents)
  • weather and/or fuel information (5 respondents)
  • managing incident websites (2 respondents)
  • news (2 respondents)
  • send out media releases to media
  • download media stories for our clip file
  • download national fire information
  • look up FireWise information
  • documentation
  • two-way communication with weather service
  • ordering fire retardant
  • ordering supplies
  • status of equipment, orders
  • download or access online forms/links
  • billing
  • pay documents for contractors and employees
  • GACC intelligence
  • submitting crew times and travel
  • determining travel time for resources demobing from the incident
  • travel information
  • submitting vehicle monthly mileage through database
  • injury report CA-1 through database (SHIPS)
  • downloading software patches
  • downloading virus definition files
  • tracking aircraft
  • monitoring radio frequencies

As for future uses of data connectivity, the respondents replied as follows:

  • tracking fire retardant in route to the incident
  • gather data such as how many current helicopters and how many more may be in route and other incidents that may be in the vicinity but m yet they don't know that we may becoming available and be able to assist them as well
  • live feed of current fire behavior
  • live feed for morning/night briefings for those away from ICP/base camp in remote areas
  • file sharing
  • more of current uses - larger files, etc
  • send information to line ops in the field
  • live video conferencing with OES and Command Centers
  • direct connections for weather service mapping
  • incident comm sys design
  • online ordering from NIFC cache
  • send 122's pay documents via the net in the field
  • photographs

General comments made by respondents include the following:

  • I appreciate what you are doing. We need similar systems in the rest of the state.

  • Get help from a sociologist/statistician in designing the survey. Then, provide a little more information on what you mean by "high speed Internet connectivity" versus what we already have on incidents. Having access to the Internet at anything beyond a dial-up modem is very handy, but even a dial-up will work - it just means that we will have to pick and choose what information we actually look at. In my home we manage large incidents without high-speed access just fine, heck, we do it with radios and a fax machine when necessary - no computers on the incident.

  • Thank you for making this service available.

  • Maintain highest security and communicate any updates needed for computing systems

HPWREN continues to be interested in network uses and impacts, and will likely undertake further surveys in the future.

Kimberly Mann Bruch
Public Information, HPWREN


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