Success Story: Equipping Emergency Command Centers

Equipping Emergency Command Centers


Wildland fires are one of the most damaging types of disasters to occur in the United States. Historically, they are responsible for the destruction of millions of acres of land; the loss of thousands of domestic livestock and other wildlife; and the heartrending loss of human life. In 2015 alone, wildfires consumed an area of land larger than the state of Maryland – over 10 million acres – and led to the deaths of 13 firefighters. Protecting the lives of firefighters against the volatile nature of wildfires is the top priority. Technology is fundamental to this effort. Retired wildland firefighter and publisher of, Bill Gabbert, explained it this way in a post for Wildfire Today, “Utilize existing technology that will enable Division Supervisors, Operations Section Chiefs, and Safety Officers to know in real time, 1) where the fire is, and 2) where the firefighters are. [It is the] Holy Grail of Firefighter Safety.” To this end, the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) and the US Forest collaborate


To reliably equip remote emergency command centers with current computer and Information Technology within 24 hours of an order. The US Forest Service and the NIFC rely on more than a dozen fire science software applications to assess a fire, predict its behavior, and devise suppression strategies that minimize danger to personnel and property. In addition, cloud-based software is often used at ECCs to process payroll, facilitate communications, and manage vendors. These robust software applications require computer workstations, laptops, or iPads that are supported by printers, copiers, large display monitors, local area networking equipment, and servers to run optimally. However, the agency’s own computer and IT resources are limited and not at a level required to outfit pop-up ECCs during the wildfire season, which generally runs from April through September each year. Although possible, managing a wildfire without the software and technology would be a dangerous, costly, and time-consuming affair and would likely result in a greater degree of death and destruction than happens now. So the NIFC and the US Forest Service sought a reliable source of temporary computer and IT equipment that could meet the sometimes complex requirements of a government-funded operation. Service collaborate to establish and operate temporary, or pop-up, Emergency Command Centers (ECCs) based near the most high-risk fires. These are often remote locations with little to no operational infrastructure. When an order is given to establish a temporary ECC, the NIFC’s expectation is to have it operational within 24 hours.


Recognizing that the demand for Emergency Command Center technology would vary from one month to the next during wildfire season, SmartSource Rentals devised a scalable program that would ensure the availability of ECC technology, while also reducing IT labor costs for the agencies. The process begins each fall, when SmartSource provides NIFC subject matter trainers with various classes of laptops and other hardware for them to configure and load with fire science software. Those configured devices are then returned to one of the 21 SmartSource facilities to be replicated, also referred to as imaged, and stored in anticipation of a call to service. When the devices are dispatched, they arrive pre-loaded, pre-configured, and ready for plug-and-play upon delivery. This saves hundreds of hours in IT labor that NIFC would otherwise have to incur onsite to make the devices functional. The average time to manually configure and load software on a computer is between 30-90 minutes. SmartSource’s imaging process is automated, allowing for dozens of devices to be imaged simultaneously.


What began as SmartSource Rentals supplying equipment to a single emergency command center in Arizona has grown to the company now delivering computer technology and office equipment solutions to wildfire emergency command centers in 48 of 49 states in the Continental United States. Ninety-five percent of the time, orders fulfilled by SmartSource arrive to the ECC destination within 24 hours of being placed.

For the 2015 wildfire season, SmartSource Rentals supplied the following:

To learn more about how SmartSource Rentals can supply your agency with scalable solutions for emergency situations, please contact Tom Joanes at (480) 829-6336, or by email at