CAL FIRE to procure mobile data systems with location tracking capability

The system will enhance situational awareness for 1,200 firefighting resources.

Radio Mobile terminal

Above: an example of a mobile data terminal made by Radio Mobile.

(Originally published at 10:50 a.m. MT February 15, 2018)

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) has signed a contract to provide technology in 1,200 state-owned vehicles that will facilitate mission critical data communications over a variety of networks (broadband, narrowband and satellite).

Under the agreement, RadioMobile will provide a centralized location tracking application within a mobile data terminal solution. The system receives incident information, provides mapping, and enables vehicle operators to communicate via a touchscreen application interfacing with their computer aided dispatching (CAD) system. The company will also provide the equipment, services, and support needed to implement a statewide VHF mobile data system and integrate network switching between broadband/cellular, VHF and satellite for CAL FIRE mobile resources.

We have been an advocate for the Holy Grail of Wildland Firefighting, which is knowing the real time location of firefighters and the fire. This system will implement a portion of that, tracking the location of firefighting vehicles and other mobile equipment (but probably can’t track dismounted personnel). It will also have the capability of displaying a map, and when data is available it could show the location of the fire. For example, it could show a sketched-out hand drawn map of the fire, or live video from an air attack ship or drone orbiting 10,000 feet over the fire. And, importantly, it could indicate the location of all firefighting resources that have location tracking enabled.

When these functions are implemented, it will enhance the situational awareness of firefighters. Congratulations to CAL FIRE for taking a step to make their personnel just a little bit safer.

Radio Mobile
This is a screen shot from a Radio Mobile “about us” video. Notice anything interesting?

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

8 thoughts on “CAL FIRE to procure mobile data systems with location tracking capability”

  1. Once again Cal Fire spends time money and expertise in maintaining its reputation as a foreword thinking international leader in wildfire and all hazard incident management and safety

  2. I’m not sure why this is so hard to do , When we 1st stated testing AFF or GPS Tracking systems, we were testing with ground units in South Ops. at the sametime , Mainly LEO’s from BLM, NPS.. In (90’s) we did have issues with GPS in canyons and heavy timber coverage area, ie KNF,SNF,YNP ….. I’m sure we have better systems in place now …….

    1. It’s only a matter of the will to do it. That, coupled with “Budget” in the Fed agencies. They’ve been robbing Peter to pay Paul since forever Bradley, you know that to be true. Congress needs to quit talking, and start doing in regard to getting this squared away. I’m also of the belief, as long as we’re on the subject of $’s and cents, that since they’ve not seen fit to pay FF’s anywhere close to parity with State and Muni, they should look at something else in the way of retirement.
      Shortly after I went into LE from Fire, AUO was approved. As a result, it added 25% to my retirement at the overtime rate. Same could be done with FF’s, computing time in HP status yearly, and then come up with a bean-counter computation of career percentage. Just kind of a sore spot for me, as I watch the Fed agencies scratch their proverbial noggins wondering why they have a retention problem.

  3. If the system is based on vhf communication, it is very simple to add personal tracking to it. You would need to add a dedicated vhf radio and tracking device to the load each firefighter carries.

  4. What Cal-Fire needs is a reason to stay in the truck and “Command and Control” using the in-Cab TCAS to manage people rather than use LCES to manage people.

    Here’s a pro-tip: Don’t put people where you don’t trust them to be. Get your head out of the truck along with your body, go ahead and sweat, and follow your crews. Build relationships. Learn capabilities and limitations and Build trust.

    There will come a day, when an engine crew is over-run by fire because they did not see where the fire was on their in cab screen.

  5. Many modern vehicle tracking devices combine both active and passive tracking abilities: when a cellular network is available and a tracking device is connected it transmits data to a server; when a network is not available the device stores data in internal memory and will transmit stored data to the server later when the network becomes available again.

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