Let’s talk rugged devices for first responders and emergency services

Alie Ashryver

Jun 7, 2023

18 min read

“9-1-1, what’s your emergency?”

We’ve all heard this line somewhere or the other, haven’t we? If not in real life, then at least while binging our favorite law enforcement or medical dramas like Brooklyn Nine-Nine or Grey’s Anatomy. Well, either way, there is no denying that the question works like a temporary balm of hope and strength for those in distress, both on and off the screen. So, of course, our guys need to be tough enough to help others in distress. After all, amidst the chaos and urgency, they must be calm and dedicated to fulfilling their roles – saving lives. They mustn’t just toughen themselves up but also have sturdy and not-so-easy-to-break tools that don’t crack under pressure.

Check out Hexnode for your rugged endpoints
Imagine a firefighter bravely jumping in to save someone in a burning apartment. And then, as soon as he lands that heroic leap, the sleek smartphone drops out of his pocket. Smash! Yup, the screen is smashed to pieces, and whatever’s left of it is practically toast. Well, there goes communication! As funny and unlikely as the scenario seems, let me assure you, it’s not. So you see, there really is a need for the concept of rugged devices for first responders and emergency services. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is our agenda for today: understanding the practicality and vital importance of rugged devices for our brave first responders and emergency services.

Glossary: Rugged devices for first responders and emergency services…

Yes sir, it is indeed the glossary! How can we truly comprehend the significance of rugged devices if we don’t know who and what these first responders and emergency services are and what exactly sets the ‘rugged’ devices apart? Let’s go digging, shall we?

First responders:

So, first responders, just as the name suggests, are individuals who are typically the first to arrive at the scene of an emergency or crisis. Accordingly, professionals from various fields like law enforcement, firefighting, emergency medical services (EMS), and search and rescue teams make the cut for the first responders’ category. Primarily, they are tasked with providing immediate assistance, assessing the situation, and initiating necessary actions to mitigate risks and save lives.

Who are the first responders?

The front-line professionals who provide immediate assistance and take necessary actions to address the situation belong to various walks of life that include but are not limited to:

  • Law enforcement: Police officers, sheriffs, state troopers, and other law enforcement personnel who maintain public order, ensure safety, and enforce laws during emergencies.
  • Fire and rescue: Firefighters, rescue personnel, and hazardous materials teams who combat fires, perform rescues, and mitigate hazardous incidents.
  • Emergency Medical Services (EMS): Paramedics, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), and other medical professionals who provide on-site medical care, stabilize patients, and transport them to medical facilities.
  • Search and rescue: Trained personnel who conduct search and rescue operations in various environments, including wilderness, water, and urban settings.

Why ThirdEye X2 MR Glasses are the right tech for first responders?

Emergency services:

Emergency services refer to the organizations and resources dedicated to responding to emergencies and providing critical assistance in times of crisis. These services encompass a wide range of professionals, including police officers, firefighters, paramedics, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), and dispatchers. Their collective efforts aim to protect public safety, handle medical emergencies, extinguish fires, maintain order, and ensure the overall well-being of communities during challenging situations.

What comes under emergency services?

Emergency services include a wide range of organizations, from local fire departments and ambulance services to government agencies like FEMA and the Red Cross. The different entities and agencies working together to address various aspects of emergency management include but are not limited to:

  • First responders: As mentioned earlier, the front-line personnel who provide immediate response and assistance during emergencies.
  • Dispatch and Communication centers: Emergency call centers (such as 9-1-1) that receive and process emergency calls, dispatch appropriate resources, and coordinate response efforts.
  • Emergency management agencies: Government agencies responsible for planning, coordinating, and managing emergency response activities, including preparedness, mitigation, response, and recovery.
  • Public health and Medical services: Health departments, hospitals, clinics, and medical professionals involved in providing medical support, disease control, and public health interventions during emergencies.
  • Disaster relief organizations: Non-profit organizations, volunteer groups, and humanitarian agencies that offer assistance, supplies, and support to affected individuals and communities during and after disasters.
First responders and emergency services are not the same...

Both ‘First Responders’ and ‘Emergency Services’ are related but distinct terms in the context of emergency management. First responders are the front-line individuals who directly respond to emergencies. While emergency services encompass a broader scope of organizations and resources that collectively manage and coordinate the response to emergencies.

Rugged devices:

Rugged devices are specialized electronic devices designed to withstand harsh and demanding environments. Unlike standard consumer devices, rugged devices are built to endure extreme temperatures, moisture, dust, vibrations, impacts, and much more.

A few examples, maybe…

  • Toughbook CF-33 by Panasonic: A fully rugged 2-in-1 detachable tablet/laptop with a durable build, water and dust resistance, and drop resistance. It includes features like a built-in handle, daylight-readable display, and hot-swappable batteries.
  • Sonim XP8: A rugged smartphone designed specifically for public safety professionals. Meeting military-grade standards, it can withstand extreme conditions, including drops, shocks, and submersion in water. It also offers features like a dedicated push-to-talk button and long battery life.
  • Getac F110: A rugged tablet with a large display, designed for field use in demanding environments. It is MIL-STD-810G certified for ruggedness and offers protection against water, dust, and shock. The device includes a powerful processor, various connectivity options, and optional accessories like detachable keyboards and vehicle docks.
  • Motorola APX 8000HXE: A rugged two-way radio designed for first responders. It is built to withstand harsh conditions and is rated IP68 for water and dust resistance. The device offers advanced features like GPS, Bluetooth connectivity, noise-canceling technology, and a large color display.
  • Zebra TC75x: A rugged handheld device designed for mobile workforce applications, including emergency services. It offers a durable construction, IP67 sealing, and can withstand drops, spills, and extreme temperatures. The device features a touch screen, barcode scanning capabilities, and wireless connectivity options.
  • CAT S61: A rugged smartphone with built-in thermal imaging capabilities, designed for professionals in various industries, including emergency services. It is MIL-STD-810G certified for ruggedness and offers water and dust resistance. The device also includes features like a laser-assisted distance measure, air quality monitor, and rugged construction.

What sets rugged devices apart from other devices?

Rugged devices often feature reinforced casings, shock-resistant components, waterproofing, and extended battery life. These devices come with advanced features such as GPS, communication capabilities, barcode scanners, thermal imaging, and specialized software applications, enabling first responders to effectively perform their tasks, maintain situational awareness, and communicate critical information in the field. They are specifically engineered to meet the unique needs of first responders and emergency services, offering durability, reliability, and enhanced functionality in challenging operational conditions.

Why would rugged devices be the ‘it’ choice for first responders and emergency services?

Well, why not? Okay, we get it. All talk is not going to cut it! And so, let’s take the rugged devices out for a spin and see why they are the best friend every first responder needs and the best asset for any emergency service.


First responders and emergency services work in challenging environments where electronic devices are subject to physical damage, water, dust, and temperature fluctuations. Rugged devices are constructed to withstand harsh environments and demanding conditions. They are built with robust materials and undergo rigorous testing to ensure they can endure extreme temperatures, vibrations, shocks, drops, and exposure to water or dust. These devices are engineered to be more resistant to physical damage when compared to standard devices.


Rugged devices often feature reinforced casings, shock-absorbing materials, and sealed ports or connectors. Consequently, these features provide the devices additional protection against impact, dust, moisture, and other environmental elements. They operate reliably in challenging environments such as construction sites, industrial facilities, or outdoor settings. They are less likely to fail or malfunction, ensuring that first responders and emergency services can communicate and access critical information when they need it most.

Extended battery life:

Rugged devices often have longer battery life than standard devices, which is essential when first responders and emergency services personnel are working in remote locations or during long shifts. Additionally, rugged devices are built to have an extended lifecycle and withstand heavy usage. They can endure prolonged exposure to rough conditions without compromising their performance or reliability. Accordingly, this ensures that first responders and emergency service personnel can rely on these devices for an extended period without frequent replacements.

Specialized features:

Rugged devices often come with specialized features such as barcode scanners, thermal imaging cameras, NFC (Near Field Communication) capability, long-lasting batteries, GPS functionality, and dedicated emergency buttons for quick access to critical functions. They are designed to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of tasks specific to emergency situations.

Compatibility, connectivity, and connection:

Rugged devices are often designed to work with specific software and systems used by first responders and emergency services personnel. This ensures that they can access the information and applications they need to perform their duties effectively. Rugged devices are often equipped with advanced wireless connectivity options, such as 4G LTE or satellite communication, to ensure reliable and uninterrupted communication in remote or disaster-stricken areas. They may also support interoperability with existing communication systems used by emergency services for seamless integration.

Ease of use:

Rugged devices are designed to be user-friendly and easy to operate, even in high-stress environments. This is important for first responders and emergency services personnel who may need to use the device quickly and efficiently in an emergency situation.


Rugged devices may have a higher upfront cost than standard consumer-grade devices, but they are often more cost-effective in the long run. They last longer, thus reducing the need for frequent replacements and repairs.

Regulatory compliance:

Manufacturers usually manufacture the rugged devices to meet regulatory compliance standards, such as FCC, CE, or MIL-STD-810G, which are important for industries such as healthcare, military, and public safety.

Impressive, right? There really is no reason to not campaign for and be in favor of rugged devices for first responders and emergency services.

Psst, psst! Over here...

Confused about the letter clutters, FCC, CE, and MIL-STD-810G? Don’t worry! Let me help you make sense of it.

FCC stands for Federal Communications Commission. It is an independent agency of the United States government that regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.

CE stands for Conformité Européenne. It is a conformity marking. Accordingly, it indicates that a product complies with all relevant health, safety, and environmental requirements of the European Union.

MIL-STD-810G, also known as Military Standard 810G, encompasses a comprehensive set of test methods and environmental conditions specifically designed to evaluate the environmental performance of military equipment.

Rugged devices for first responders and emergency services seem like a good idea, but how to securely manage them?

Well, you definitely know how to ask the right questions! However, before we find the answer to this question, we should understand why we must secure and manage rugged devices for first responders and emergency services in the first place. Aside from the obvious reasons, securing and managing rugged devices for first responders and emergency services is crucial for several reasons that include:

  • protecting sensitive data
  • maintaining reliable communication
  • enhancing operational efficiency
  • complying with regulations
  • recovering lost devices
  • mitigating cyber threats

By prioritizing the security and management of these devices, emergency services can effectively carry out their responsibilities while ensuring the safety and privacy of the individuals involved.

Moving on…

So now, how do we go about securing and managing these rugged devices for first responders and emergency services. Well, the answer is Unified Endpoint Management (UEM). UEM solutions have been making waves in the endpoint security and device management market segment. Businesses and organizations across the globe are turning towards this particular concept (more like a solution 😉) to attend to their enterprise security needs. And so, a solid UEM solution (like Hexnode!) plays a vital role in securing and managing rugged devices for first responders and emergency services.

But why UEM for securing and managing rugged devices for first responders and emergency services?

Well, why not! I know that’s not the answer you were looking for. So, here are some reasons that might convince you that UEM solutions can deal with the pressure of securing and managing rugged devices.

Centralized management:

UEM provides a centralized platform to manage and control a diverse range of rugged devices, including smartphones, tablets, laptops, wearables, and IoT devices. This allows administrators to enforce security policies, configure settings, deploy software updates, and track devices from a single interface. Centralized management ensures consistency, efficiency, and ease of administration across a large fleet of devices.

Security enhancement:

First responders and emergency services often handle sensitive and confidential information, including personal data, operational details, and critical communications. UEM enables comprehensive security measures such as device encryption, remote lock and wipe, password policies, and a lot more. Consequently, UEM helps protect against data breaches, unauthorized access, and malware attacks, ensuring the integrity and confidentiality of sensitive information.

Policy enforcement:

UEM allows administrators to enforce strict security policies and compliance standards across all rugged devices. Accordingly, they can define and enforce device management policies to configure settings and restrict network access, application usage and data sharing. UEM minimizes the risk of accidental data leakage, improper device usage, and non-compliance with regulations.

Application management:

UEM simplifies processes like deployment, updation, and removal of applications on rugged devices. It enables administrators to remotely push essential applications, software updates, and security patches to all devices simultaneously. This ensures that first responders have the latest tools and functionalities available. UEM can also restrict the installation of unauthorized or malicious applications, reducing the chances of device compromise.

Featured resource

Hexnode UEM Rugged Device Management

Rugged devices are most useful in harsh and remote environments. Unlike everyday use devices, they are built for particular purposes. So, it is important that a management suite catering to their specific needs is used.

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Asset tracking and Inventory management:

Rugged devices are valuable assets for first responders and emergency services. UEM provides real-time visibility and tracking capabilities, allowing administrators to monitor the location and status of all devices. In case of loss or theft, administrators can remotely track and locate the devices, trigger alarms, and perform remote wipes if necessary. UEM also assists in managing device inventory, ensuring accurate records of device ownership, allocation, and maintenance.

Remote support and Troubleshooting:

First responders and emergency services rely on their devices to function seamlessly during critical operations. UEM enables remote support and troubleshooting capabilities (like remote view and control). And so the IT personnel can diagnose and resolve issues without physical access to the devices. This reduces downtime, enhances productivity, and ensures that devices are operational when they are needed the most.

These capabilities enhance the overall security, efficiency, and reliability of rugged devices in critical situations.

So, how does Hexnode figure in with the rugged devices for first responders and emergency services?

Well, just saying UEM is the answer to securing and managing your rugged devices would be like leaving you high and dry. Fret not, though! I have every intention of pointing y’all toward a robust UEM solution that can take care of all things rugged device management. This is where Hexnode comes into play. Hexnode’s rugged device management solution boasts a comprehensive set of features for managing and securing rugged devices. Indeed, an assortment of features that can ease the lives of first responders and emergency services personnel! Let’s sneak a quick peek, shall we?

Hexnode’s features supporting rugged devices for first responders and emergency services…

  • Device enrollment: Hexnode’s device enrollment feature allows administrators to quickly and easily enroll new rugged devices into the UEM. This feature ensures that devices are properly configured and secured before being deployed in the field.
  • Device lockdown: Hexnode’s device lockdown feature enables administrators to lock down rugged devices to prevent unauthorized access or tampering. Accordingly, this feature ensures that devices are secure. Also, it ensures that no one gets to use them for malicious purposes.
  • Device tracking: Hexnode’s device tracking feature provides real-time location information for rugged devices. And so, this feature allows administrators to track the movement of devices and personnel, ensuring their safety and security.
  • Device info and summary: Hexnode’s dashboard provides administrators with detailed insights into all sorts of information regarding the device. This helps the admins keep track of every action and policy applied to the device.
  • Remote management: Hexnode’s remote management capabilities enable administrators to manage rugged devices from a centralized location, saving time and effort. Basically, this feature allows administrators to remotely configure settings, install and update applications, and troubleshoot device issues.
  • Remote wipe: Hexnode’s remote wipe feature enables administrators to wipe the data from a lost or stolen rugged device remotely. This is important for first responders and emergency services personnel, as it ensures that sensitive information does not fall into the wrong hands.
What in the world is OEMConfig?

OEMConfig is an Android Enterprise and rugged device management feature that facilitates collaboration between OEMs and UEMs to deliver comprehensive management capabilities. Accordingly, through OEMConfig apps, managed configurations are utilized to configure a range of device features offered by the OEM. Moreover, Hexnode UEM enables users to conveniently access and leverage these OEM-specific features directly from its portal.

And some more…

  • Application management: Hexnode’s application management capabilities enable administrators to control which applications are installed on rugged devices. Consequently, this feature ensures that only approved applications are installed, reducing the risk of malware or other security threats.
  • Mobile content management: Hexnode’s mobile content management capabilities enable administrators to control access to sensitive content on rugged Android devices. This feature is important for first responders and emergency services personnel who may need access to sensitive information in the field.
  • Security policies: Hexnode’s security policies enable administrators to enforce security measures such as passcode requirements, encryption, and device lockdown. This feature protects rugged devices against unauthorized access and data breaches.
  • Kiosks: Hexnode’s kiosk policies can allow the IT team to lock down the rugged devices to a single app or a handful of apps. Accordingly, this ensures that the employees use the devices only for the intended purposes.
  • Over-The-Air updates: Hexnode’s over-the-air update feature enables administrators to update rugged devices remotely. This feature ensures that rugged devices are always up-to-date with the latest software version.
  • Geofencing: Hexnode’s geofencing feature allows administrators to set up virtual boundaries and monitor the location of rugged devices. This is important for first responders and emergency services personnel, as it allows them to quickly identify the location of devices and personnel in the field.
  • Location-based access controls: Hexnode’s location-based access controls enable administrators to control access to certain applications or features based on the device’s location. Accordingly, this feature ensures that users can’t access sensitive information outside of authorized locations.

Here’s your white paper on all things rugged devices
Whew! That’s quite a lot you can do. Well, the more, the better, right? Now that we have covered all the basics of the rugged devices for first responders and emergency services, let’s wind up, shall we?

Well then, see you!

First responders and emergency services are an indispensable part of our society. When disaster strikes, whether it’s a natural disaster like a hurricane or a man-made emergency like a fire or a car crash, these brave men and women are the first to rush in and help. They are the ones who put themselves in harm’s way to save lives and ensure that everyone is safe. So, of course, as we saw earlier, they have to be tough. The first responders and emergency services personnel who rush to the scene, facing chaos, danger, and the race against time to save lives, deserve the very best of helpers. And so, let us hope that the next time the first responders reach their target site, they are not just armed with their bravery but also trusty and sturdy rugged devices.

Ooo, and while you’re cheering for the future of first responders and emergency services don’t forget to check out Hexnode’s rugged device management features. See you, then!

Alie Ashryver

Product Evangelist @ Hexnode. Gimme a pen and paper and I'll clear up the cloud of thoughts in ma head...

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