The Long Beach (Calif.) Fire Department’s mobile command and communications (MCC) vehicle has the ability to transmit high-definition video from remote locations in the city to headquarters, thanks to a microwave solution from Radio Waves that automatically creates nomadic from the mobile facility to the city’s central receiving location.

The capability was deployed for the recent IndyCar series Grand Prix of Long Beach, which typically attracts about 80,000 into the city, according to Jim Rexwinkel, director of training for the Long Beach Fire Department.

“Fortunately, at this Grand Prix, nothing happened, so we didn’t have to fully use it,” Rexwinkel said, noting the ability to have the department’s operation center video conference with the incident commander at the race site.

“Also, it would show the scale of the event back to the decision-makers. That’s always the thing that I find most intriguing about video — the toughest part for me on scene is to convey the information back to the decision-makers … and giving them that image instead of having to describe that is helpful.”

This video capability is enabled by a 200 MB/s microwave link on 4.9 GHz spectrum between the MCC and Signal Hill, the primary fixed site for the Long Beach Fire Department. When the MCC reaches its destination, it sends its GPS coordinates to the Signal Hill site via 800 MHz radio, and Radio Waves’ automatic mobile antenna tracking (AMAT) system establishes the microwave connection in a manner that is “easy to use, without much training,” Rexwinkel said.

The microwave-link capability does not work when the MCC is moving, but it does work nomadically throughout most potential locations in the Long Beach area, said Steve Berger, communications specialist for the Long Beach Fire Department.

“The mobile command center can go into any area within the city — and we’re starting to test it outside the city —and, once we get the MCC set up, it transmits its GPS location via 800 MHz radio to Signal Hill, and then it basically tells Signal Hill, ‘This is where I’m at,’” Berger said. “The antenna on our mobile unit tracks back to Signal Hill, and Signal Hill tracks the mobile unit, so they make the connection.

“It’s the mobile side of that that’s kind of different from what other people have done. Most microwave facilities use a fixed location. This gives up the capability to set up a mobile command center.”

The microwave capability on the MCC initially was designed to link training classrooms in the regions, but the connectivity is particularly helpful during the Grand Prix, when the interior portion of the raceway is virtually isolated from the rest of the city, Rexwinkel said.

“They have their own dispatcher, they have their own incident commander and they run their city within a city, basically,” he said. “So, all the dispatch [associated with the race] goes through the mobile command center, and they run that whole incident on their own. With that incident commander, they’re pretty much secluded in that area — unless it’s a very significant event, no one gets on or off the inside of the track.”

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