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Cambridgeshire firefighters get rugged tablets for frontline work

Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue is deploying ruggedised Panasonic tablets across its service to help personnel access vital information in an emergency

Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service is deploying 13in Panasonic Toughbook CF-D1 mobile data terminals (MDTs) across its fleet of appliances to help firefighters work more quickly and efficiently in life-or-death situations.

The ruggedised tablets will be used to provide vital information on the way to a job – which could include sending status updates to command and control, site risk assessments and information such as chemicals stored or location of hydrants, data on vehicles involved in a road traffic accident, and so on.

At the scene of an incident, firefighters will also have access to smaller, lighter 10in FZ-G1 Toughpads for asset management and inventory.

The tablets currently connect to the existing emergency services terrestrial trunked radio (Tetra) network, but at the same time the service’s vehicles are already being equipped with new aerials so that personnel can seamlessly connect to the 4G-based Emergency Services Network (ESN) when it comes online in the next couple of years.

“We are investing to change all the existing MDTs to a more agile device to allow the crews to work more efficiently and smartly,” said Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue’s communications project manager. and former station commander, John Barlow.

“The Panasonic devices are ideal for all the conditions we work in. We can read the device in bright sunlight and it is built to be used outside and in wet conditions without any problems. Feedback from field trials with the devices has been positive.”

Barlow and his team worked extensively alongside Panasonic to help make the new solution as cost-effective as possible, including designing and building a bespoke, generic bracket so that the devices can be easily and quickly installed across its entire fleet of vehicles. The system also utilises the service’s existing power management units.

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Callum Faint, Cambridgeshire Area Commander, added: “It’s a massive step forward. In the past, a member of the fire crew would have to remain in the cab of the fire engine. Now, being able to demount the information source and take it with us means the information can be right there, on the scene, really improving our operational effectiveness.”

The service is already considering and planning a number of possible future applications, and hopes to begin to use the tablets more widely on scene. This could include identifying information about the safety features of a crashed vehicle so that airbags can be turned off safely to release trapped passengers, for example.

There may even be applications in non-emergency situations, such as on home fire safety or hydrant inspections, where the tablets could be used for data collection and management.

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