Cisco NERV: The ultimate first responder vehicle

As a former volunteer firefighter/EMT, I understand the need for high quality communications on any type of emergency. Having something like the Cisco NERV available to on-scene emergency teams will certainly make their difficult job a great deal easier.

An associate of mine knowing my interest in Cisco TelePresence technology mentioned that he'd just seen a video about some kind of a vehicle called NERV(pdf) and it had a working Cisco CTS 1000 telepresence system in the back. I made mention that it sounded interesting. I really was thinking that it must be some kind of a publicity stunt. Boy was I wrong. After reading about the NERV, I became a whole lot more impressed. The following image is of the largest truck in the NERV series (courtesy of


According to Cisco, the Network Emergency Response Vehicle (NERV) is a total communications platform:

"Cisco is in the IP communications business and identified a need for a ready-to-go, plug-in solution for command center communications during emergencies. The outcome: The Network Emergency Response Vehicle (NERV). Basically, a mobile communications vehicle that can act as a command center for your on-the-ground disaster management, as well as a central processing center for all the communications going on for that effort. Through Cisco's IPICS technology, which allows disparate radio systems to communicate with each other via IP translation, police, who are on one radio system, can talk with fire professionals who are on another radio system, who can talk with the National Guard, who are on another radio system. The NERV also has TelePresence, video surveillance, Wi-Fi, satellite communications, and IP telephony on-board."

To get a better understanding of this vehicle, please watch the video "Cisco's NERV". Bob Browning, Senior Manager of Tactical Operations Support at Cisco moderates the video and is considered a leading authority on emergency communications management. To get a feel for all of the individual technologies incorporated in a single vehicle, please refer to the following image (courtesy of Cisco):

Being a radio geek, the one technology that really excites me is Cisco's IP Interoperability and Collaboration System (IPICS). IPICS is a combination of hardware and software that provides interoperability between disparate communication systems. For instance, IPICS allows a person using a push-to-talk (PTT) radio, mobile phone, IP phone, PSTN phone, or a computer to talk to someone else using any one of the above choices. The following image should give you some idea of this capability (courtesy of Cisco):

When I was in San Jose for the TelePresence training, Kevin Nyugen a Cisco demonstration engineer also gave us a first hand look at how IPIC works. By using a cell phone, one member of the training class was able to talk to another member using a hand held radio.

Final thoughts

I especially admire technology that has the potential to reduce or remove pain and suffering. It's my sincere hope that vehicles like the NERV and the skilled personnel who operate them will do just that. I'm not sure, but I suspect that the NERV in California is hard at work right now helping fight the many wild fires.

Edit note: My sincere apologies to Mr. Browning as I mistakenly referred to him as Bill instead of Bob.


Michael Kassner has been involved with wireless communications for 40 plus years, starting with amateur radio (K0PBX) and now as a network field engineer and independent wireless consultant. Current certifications include Cisco ESTQ Field Engineer, CWNA, and CWSP.

About Michael Kassner

Information is my field...Writing is my passion...Coupling the two is my mission.

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