Officer Kyle Roder with Eau Claire Police Dept. demonstrates wireless technology in squad car
EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Whether it's a high speed chase or a standoff situation, officers need to stay connected with each other as a dangerous situation develops. Now an upgrade on wireless communication is helping Eau Claire police and rescue crews do just that, but more efficiently than ever before.
According to the city’s information services manager John Lebrun, new communication towers were added in recent months at the Mt. Washington, Mt. Tom, and Pinehurst water reservoir locations. Also an extension was added on top of the Oakwood water tower.
The new tower facilities in the city are part of a larger joint project that involves communication towers in Eau Claire County, Chippewa County, and Dunn County.
The data network equipment in the city police squads and fire EMS vehicles have been upgraded to take advantage of multiple wireless technologies. Lebrun said the vehicles are outfitted with intelligent network equipment that connects the vehicle to the fastest wireless connection available.
All vehicles can connect to Wi-Fi and WiMax networks. For vehicles that routinely leave the WiMax coverage area, they can also connect via a leased cell network.
“It’s also a very secure network. We have very private information that we run across our devices and by having it solely contained with our infrastructure, we know that it’s secure,” said Lebrun.
Officer Kyle Roder knows the faster information can travel the better police and fire and rescue crews can do their job.
“In law enforcement, we need to make split second decisions. We need to have the best information possible to make those decisions, whether it’s simply responding to a case or it’s responding to a crash and knowing how the vehicles are positioned, we're looking for an individual and we need an image of that person sent to us. We're able to access that now from our computers,” said Roder.
Lebrun said if officers or other rescue crews had to travel as far as Fairchild, New Auburn, Mondovi or Wheeler, they would still have coverage.
“WiMax goes long distances, so if you’re within sight of a tower, you can go within 15 miles. Wi-Fi, you're lucky if you can get 300 to 500 feet. So for a vehicle you can drive long distances without losing connection,” said Lebrun.
Roder said the days of officer’s handwriting reports and sharing information that way doesn’t exist anymore.
The days of us handwriting our reports and sharing information like that don’t exist anymore.
“We really rely on our computer systems to be working, to be efficient,” he said. “We're required to type on the computers to send information electronically, to get our dispatch electronically. So if that’s not working, that makes our efficiency less and it makes the stress our officers a lot more.”
Lebrun said the new technology is covered under a number of different budgets including a joint grant that helped the city build fiber optics to the tower sites instead of microwaves. They also had a cash match with 20 different partners taking part of the grant, including area hospitals.