Maintaining Connectivity During Alabama Wildfires and Tornadoes

Tim Karney on February 28, 2017, 7:00 am

We set up the Plum Case® in the command trailer and connected our computer and wireless printer to it. That enabled us to have more reliable communication actions and for the Forestry Service to upload and download maps for up-to-date geo

graphic information. We also used it for Voice Over IP (VOIP) on our state cell phones to make voice calls when we could not get a usable signal with the cellphones internal antenna.”, said Little.He added, “We had high confidence in the Plum Case® since Lee Williams of Plum Laboratories came down earlier in the year and we field tested it in many areas where we had previously had trouble getting a signal. Also, John Deering at Plum helped us track and troubleshoot the cases using the Enterprise Cloud Manager which let us know the signal strength and how much data was available. That was helpful since we had multiple agencies all connecting through the case. We could see which of the four networks was using the most data. for critical applications.”

 

“The four separate SSIDs that were available to us on the Plum Case® enabled us to have a network for ourselves, a separate one for the Forest Service, and two networks for guests. Having a wireless printer on the network was extremely helpful and afforded us the ability to plot maps in color and use them in the next operational period and for tactical briefings. Previously, the person doing the GIS mapping would have had to go back to a hotel with public wifi or maybe the county EOC to get the signal, update the maps and drive them back to the Incident Command Post (ICP). The County EOC is approximately 20 miles away which would have caused significant delays”

 

"In a separate incident, a tornado hit the area around Ider, Alabama where the Ider Police Department has a Plum Case®. When the tornado damaged much of the area’s communications infrastructure, they set up their Plum Case® in the City Council Chambers, and the police, emergency services, and volunteer rescue squads all used it. We had a live weather stream and we used it to access radar data from the National Weather Service (NWS) in Huntsville, Alabama. During the response, new weather warnings would come out and we would have to secure the responders to get them out of the storm’s path before they could resume their rescue efforts. The Plum Case® was literally 20 feet from the police dispatcher so we could quickly alert the responders to dangerous conditions.  The power was off in the city hall and we were running on generator but the Plum Case® was capable of operating and moving data on its self-contained battery for several days which is a real advantage.”

From the success of these deployments and the ongoing field testing the State of Alabama Emergency Management Agency has assigned each of the state’s seven divisions a Plum Case® to back up the division’s operations and provide data communications in the field. "We can use it to plug in our voice over internet protocol phone systems when needed. The signal reception of the Plum Case® is significantly better than the personal mifi devices or dongles. In addition, the Plum Case® Extended has two separate cellular gateways for dual path diversity in case one carrier’s signal is unavailable or slow. If both carriers are available the Plum Case® Multiple User, Multiple Input, Multiple Output, antenna arrays can be load balanced for exceptional throughput."

For more information on Plum Laboratories and its entire line of continuity of operations and remote access solutions, visit www.plumlaboratories.com.

Organizations interested in testing a Plum Case® should contact John Deering, Head Technical Advisor at jdeering@plumcases.com or call him at (615) 484-7255.

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