How to manage first responder devices with UEM

Alessia Forster

Jan 31, 2022

12 min read

I’m pretty sure you will all agree with me if I describe humans as social beings. We are all part of a society with members who are interdependent. This dependency extends from the food we eat, the clothes we wear and all the other services we rely on.

Even though we often like believing that we are independent, we realize that it is just an illusion, when we fall into situations, we can’t do anything about! In such periods we often look up to people who can handle these situations better than us – the first responders.

Getting to know our heroes- the first responders

Can you, for a moment, imagine the usual route to your office? Walking past the usual signboard, your eyes fall on that random object, and on looking closer, you realize that it’s a person! What will you do? Obviously, you will call an ambulance or 911, isn’t it? That’s how confident we are in our heroes – the first responders. We are pretty sure that they will be quick in reaching the emergency spot and will save the life of the person in need.

According to U.S. Homeland Security Presidential Directive,

The term ‘‘first responder’’ refers to those individuals who in the early stages of an incident are responsible for the protection and preservation of life, property, evidence, and the environment, including emergency response providers

First responders can be of different types. They may be:

  • Firefighters
  • Emergency medical services (EMS)
  • Law enforcement
  • Emergency management
  • 911 communications

What are the tools that first responders need?

First responders need a variety of tools to work efficiently
First responders need a variety of tools to work efficiently

First responders often need to work in situations that can be life-threatening. So, it is indeed our responsibility to ensure that these selfless warriors of ours are taken care of. With technology on the rise, it’s possible to add many such features like location tracking, GPS, etc. Into devices like smartphones or tablets. But there is also another challenge here, the harsh conditions they work in are not always favorable for smartphones and tablets. They need devices like smartphones, tablets, routers, modems, wearables, etc. which are also capable of resisting impact, unexpected drop or water penetration.

What makes rugged devices the best choice?

Rugged devices are designed to work in harsh conditions. Being part of the emergency services, they often find themselves in a wide range of situations. It can range from firefighting, emergency medical services to rescue operations in coastguards or even mountains, often involving unexpected events and high-stress levels. These conditions demand devices with greater capabilities over commonly used commercial smartphones.

Some of the other benefits of rugged devices include:

  • Reliable connectivity with near real-time communication for faster decision-making.
  • High-resolution display to access information even in challenging conditions.
  • Ability to use devices even with protective equipment like thick gloves.
  • Durability and reliability in extreme climatic conditions and ability to continue functioning even if briefly submerged in water.
  • Long-lasting battery life with replaceable batteries or fast charging support.
  • Near real-time location information.
  • Supports coupling with cloud computing and AI to increase mapping efficiency.

A closer analysis

First responders play a vital role in ensuring the safety of our citizens. It would be really hard to imagine a society without their aura of protection around us. Let’s have a closer look at their functioning.


Firefighters rely on rugged devices for real-time updates
Firefighters rely on rugged devices for real-time updates

Firefighters work in risky environments. We often hear about instances of firefighters being injured during rescue operations. This is primarily due to the lack of protective equipment. We can ensure that they work normally even in such complex environments by adopting smart devices and other equipment. These devices can give them a clearer picture of the challenges, helping them prepare for them well in advance.

Some of the features that can help make their job easier include:

  • Fast and reliable communication to convey the updates and ensure the safety of the public and the firefighters.
  • Real-time updates on the location of rescued objects to reduce causalities.
  • Support wireless devices and provide operators with data on the use of fire trucks, such as oxygen consumption and pressure status.
  • Routing maps point out roadblocks and other obstacles and the status of other responding agencies and their location in real-time.
  • Easier to access vital information like building maps, a list of on-site hazardous materials, for preparing emergency plans.
  • Applications to ensure that all firefighters are updated with situational information.

There is no doubt regarding what device type must be used in such situations. Obviously, rugged devices are the best choice here. These devices designed for challenging environments, capable of withstanding drops, submersion in water and even extreme temperatures, are preferred over consumer-grade devices even if we add heavy-duty cases adding shock resistance to them.

Some of the device types used include:

  • Pocket size rugged smartphones for firefighters.
  • Rugged tablets with larger screens for fire inspectors and incident commanders.
  • Rugged PC installed in fire trucks for real-time site information.

Emergency medical services (EMS)

Rugged devices make communication and record keeping easier for EMS
Rugged devices make communication and record-keeping easier for EMS

Emergency Medical Services (EMS) refers to the system providing emergency medical care to patients. It involves a chain of processes activated by incidents causing severe illness or injury. Their prime focus is the emergency medical care of patients. These chains of events involve everything from the emergency medical care of patients with illness and injuries out of the hospital to transporting them to definitive care.

Considering the critical nature of the situation, the ambulance team should have the ability to act fast, have dedicated equipment and professional skills and should also be able to handle any unexpected situation that they encounter with ease.

Some of the features that can make their job easier include:

  • High performance and uninterrupted communication with dispatch, hospital etc. to ensure optimal patient care.
  • Seamless transfer of records safely and securely for better decision-making and easier HIPAA compliance.
  • Help paramedics report information on patients’ status and consult with doctors via voice/video in case of an emergency.
  • Faster dispatching of the emergency team by integrating devices with ambulance mobilization software.
  • Help emergency teams access necessary information from wherever they are.
  • Capable of being cleaned and sanitized while maintaining full functionality.
  • Fully functional and easy to operate even when the vehicle in which the device is mounted is in motion.

Rugged devices become the preferred choice here as they are engineered to tolerate the harshest of situations. During emergency care, we need such devices as downtime is not at all among the list of emergencies we would want to face.

Some of the rugged device types we find in EMS include:

  • Rugged mobile tablet for EMS personnel.
  • Rugged tablet PCs in the ambulance for seamless information transfer irrespective of the conditions.

Law enforcement

Manage first responder devices with UEM
With rugged devices ensuring law and order has become easier

It comprises the agencies and the employees responsible for providing the first response to emergencies and other threats to public safety. They play a pivotal role in maintaining public order and public safety. They are involved in the investigation, apprehension and detention of individuals suspected of criminal activities. Being responsible for a lot of activities, from helping victims calling out for help to making complaints and enforcing the law and preventing their violation, they have a lot of issues to attend to. So, by using the latest technology, we can ensure that they work efficiently and are well-equipped to face all the threats they may encounter.

Some of the features that make their job easier include:

  • Reliable internet connectivity.
  • Long battery life capable of covering the entire shift.
  • Fast and efficient computing performance.
  • Ability to collect evidence from harsh environments with precision, making data more reliable.
  • Store and retrieve large amounts of data, including samples of DNA from their database.
  • Capable of withstanding heat, cold, sun, rain and even occasional drops or vibrations.
  • Use of modern technology like mobile computing to increase the efficiency of processes like forensic analysis.
  • Access location information to navigate to the scene, collect and transmit detailed information to law enforcement stations at the earliest.

Rugged devices have made things easier for law enforcement. The ability to deliver high-level data coupled with communication functions even under challenging environments makes them suitable for their demanding job profile.

Rugged device types we find in law enforcement include:

  • Rugged tablets for police.
  • Rugged laptops mounted in vehicles.

Emergency management

Manage first responder devices with UEM
Rugged devices help reduce casualties in emergency situations

Emergencies can come in different forms. The most common emergencies are usually weather-related or the results of geological events with impacts that may or may not be localized. Well, emergencies are not just restricted to natural disasters like thunderstorms, flood or earthquake; it extends to man-made hazards, including hazardous material releases, acts of terrorism, or nuclear accidents. So, in order to face this diverse set of challenges, the first responders should have all the necessary tools at their disposal.

Some of the features that make their job easier include:

  • Ability to communicate and collaborate in real-time via voice even in extreme conditions.
  • Finding and keeping an account of the victims, evacuees, available resources and equipment.
  • Deploy resources in the most needed situations to reduce adverse effects of disasters.
  • Inventory management to ensure that the essentials like food, water, clothes, medicines etc. are reaching the needy.
  • Data storage in the cloud to provide access to other required agencies.
  • Capable of tolerating fast-paced situations involving challenging weather conditions.

Rugged devices that ensure accurate tracking of victims can help reduce the number of causalities even in the toughest of situations. The other aspect where rugged devices are finding applications is in the post-disaster period. It helps in keeping track of the people, resources and other equipment.

Rugged device types used in emergency management include:

  • Rugged industrial tablets for human resources and inventory management.
  • Rugged laptops for logistics tracking.
  • Barcode and RFID scanners attached to tablets for managing inventory.

Why are devices alone not sufficient?

Manage first responder devices with UEM
Managing rugged devices is essential for ensuring that your data remains safe

Normalizing the use of rugged devices by first responders is definitely a great move in helping them respond better to emergencies. But, like any smart device, there are challenges associated with this implementation, which, if taken lightly, can make things even worse. You need to ensure that all your devices are functioning in a way that is efficient as well as secure. For this you should have efficient mechanisms that cover the entire process; from device onboarding, security, data management to real-time location tracking, to ensure that the whole process is running smoothly. With Hexnode’s UEM you can manage all your device aspects from a single console. Let’s have a brief overview:

Easier enrollment

Device enrollment is the first step in the process that changes our endpoints from mere devices to managed devices. The easier the process, the better, isn’t it? With Hexnode’s easy enrollment methods you can enroll all your devices without any trouble. Some of the enrollment methods include:

Enhanced security

Security is one of the key aspects in any enterprise. In this period of uninterrupted internet connectivity, a proper security framework is vital in ensuring that your enterprise data is inaccessible to any potential intruder. Some of these features include:

Endpoint management

Hexnode’s UEM is an all-in-one platform that helps you manage most of the device aspects from a single console. It includes:

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Remote commands

Sometimes we face situations where we need to remotely manage certain device aspects. By pushing commands remotely, you can ensure that these immediate requirements are implemented almost instantaneously. Some of them include:

The how and why of rugged device management


Rugged devices are indeed the best fit for first responders considering the criticality of the situations and the harsh climatic conditions they are often exposed to. However, making these devices a part of your enterprise alone is not sufficient; you need efficient solutions to ensure that your devices and your data are protected even if it falls into unsafe hands. Hexnode’s UEM makes the whole process of rugged device management easier, thus ensuring that the first responders are actually responding to emergencies and not wasting their valuable time worrying about the safety of their rugged devices.

Alessia Forster

Product Evangelist @ Hexnode. Take life as it comes. One day at a time.

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