County Fire Saving Lives Through Apple iPad Technology


By Staff Reports

(Victor Valley)– For years County Fire personnel have relied on their own personal devices to stay current with technology as it relates to performing their job duties. Binders and notebooks full of information that once served a meaningful purpose have now become obsolete. Printed maps and pre-plans of target hazards are no longer current as digital versions are easier to maintain and update. With the current trends in the way we obtain and disseminate information, it was crucial to find a way to affect much needed change to benefit our customers.

Recently the San Bernardino County Fire District obtained grant funding through a Department of Homeland Security Assistance to Firefighters Grant, which allowed the purchase of 10 Apple iPads for the High Desert region of County Fire. These iPads will function as the Mobile Data Computers (MDC) for County Fire apparatus located in the City of Hesperia and the communities of Lucerne Valley, Phelan, and Wrightwood. Until recently these areas of County Fire relied on a paper map books or a mapping application used on a personally owned smart phone.

The iPad will have a primary role of serving as the unit’s Mobile Data Computer. MDC’s allow for real time incident notifications, mapping and resource tracking. One of the major applications that will be featured on these iPads is Tablet Command. This application is a tablet-based incident command application that allows incident commanders to tap-and-drag emergency units onto an incident map, track their progress against critical checklists, and time-stamp every maneuver and benchmark throughout an emergency response. Such features improve crew safety by maintaining real time accountability throughout an incident and allowing vastly more accurate after-action reviews. Once the incident is complete, you will also be able to save a digital command worksheet that can be used for future reference. The iPad will greatly enhance our situational awareness and our ability to make decisions based on real time information.

To put things in perspective, when you call 911 and report a structure fire, you can expect 15-25 highly trained firefighters and paramedics to arrive within minutes on state-of-the-art fire apparatus loaded with all the necessary tools and equipment that are capable of pumping massive amounts of water to support rescue and suppression operations. All of this is orchestrated by an incident commander who has had to rely on grease pencils and plastic writing surfaces to coordinate and track resources. Tablet Command takes away the “pen and paper” and places our incident organization into current technology.

iPad technology in the fire service became a trend in the Bay Area after the 2010 gas line explosion in San Bruno, a suburb of San Francisco. In the after action review, it was noted that the public was gaining more information than the first responders during the height of the incident. This massive response included dozens of fire apparatus and hundreds of personnel. The fireground is a dynamic and dangerous environment. It is imperative that we know who is doing what, when and where as they are critical components to mitigating the incident. These advancements in technology will greatly improve the way County Fire operates as well as allow us to deliver a safer, more efficient service to the public. The future plan is to install iPads in all of County Fire’s apparatus.

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