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Mobile Telecom Units Gain Popularity Amid Wildfires

The portable devices from Chico-based Rescue42, which function like mobile cell towers, are being used during wildfires when communication is lost. The devices can last for up to 10 days.

Rescue42, a small firm in Chico, has been helping first responders by providing Compact Rapid Deployable units (CRDs), which function like mobile cell towers, as wildfires bedevil the state.
A white pickup truck as seen from the back with a CRD mounted to the back of the truck.
The portable devices can fit in the back of a pickup and can work for about 10 days.

The portable telecom units are being used during wildfires when trouble hits the fan and communication is lost. Once powered up, these mini cell towers can sustain communication for up to 10 days.

The units were new when Butte County deployed them during the 2018 Camp Fire, and the latest models have been shipped to wildfires elsewhere. They can be deployed from the back of a pickup truck — that’s the full-sized version — or a suitcase, which can house the miniCRD.

The portables were developed by Tim O’Connell, the founder, CEO and chief technology officer of Rescue42, who gained an understanding of disaster response while in the Navy.

“My experiences in the Navy instilled a demand for good planning, absolute attention to details and over-engineered products that do many things instead of just one,” O’Connell told the Chico Enterprise-Record. “I’ve surfaced through the ice and walked on the North Pole. You better have planned well and taken care of your gear. It’s a long way to the hardware store from there.”

Rescue42 contracts with AT&T to supply the portable devices to be compatible with FirstNet cellular and is working on developing units for other carriers.

This story first appeared in Emergency Management, Industry Insider — California’s sister publication.