WiFi for Emergency Responders

Using Wifi for emergency response:

The RAND corporation, in a 2003 study, estimated that there are 1.1 million firefighters (of which 75% are volunteers), 500,000 emergency medical responders, and 800,000 law enforcement officers. Add to that 500,000 members of the National Guard, and another 300,000 other essential workers, and we’re talking 3.2 million emergency responders in the United States.

The basic task is straightforward: every single emergency responder in the United States should be equipped with a simple Emergency Transponder (ET) that can receive pages and allow at least voice and text communications with other workers. We think such a device could be built for as little as $150. It would be a trivial task for the government to offer a $150 ET Rebate on the first 3.2 million devices.

WiFi devices can communicate directly with each other, something known as ad hoc or grid networking. That’s a really good thing. Even if the central infrastructure is gone, two people can talk directly to each other.

But, a robust and stable communications network also has a series of central nodes that stabilize and strengthen the network. With the WiFi architecture, the most effective way to do this is with mobile or portable antennas. These are known as routers or repeaters, and in the case of the ET system consists of an antenna and a computer, forming a mobile base station that can be placed in a car, helicopter, airplane, fire truck, ambulance, blimp or be portable as part of a fireman’s kit. When a disaster hits, as soon as people and equipment get mobilized, the communications network gets stronger. We think two million vehicles could be equipped in short order.