Cedar Rapids firefighters are firing up new technology in their trucks.
Technicians are installing 18 new Mobile Data Computers. So far, seven have gone in and the rest will be in by the end of October. They work using 4G LTE technology, like what many smart phones have. Some computers are already in use as crews respond to emergency calls.
The department started the process of obtaining the new technology back in 2009. The overall goal is to use the technology to help reduce response times. Currently, it takes crews an average of 4 minutes and 35 seconds to respond to a medical or fire call.
Department leaders said the mobile computers will improve accuracy and efficiency of responses by providing crews more access to information. The devices display information instantaneously on the computer screen inside the fire engine when an emergency happens.
“When the call comes in, when the tones are going off at the station, it will also be going off in the truck,” Capt. Curtis Walser said. “As soon as the firefighters get on board they will have the location, address of the emergency, a general description of the emergency, the cross streets between that address as well as any notes that come in.”
A map also pops up with the best route for firefighters to take. Crews can see other fire engines and their location within the city. Firefighters also have access to notes the dispatcher is taking down as more calls come in during an emergency.
“If a neighbor calls 911 and says they see smoke or see fire, (firefighters) will see those notes live as they are getting entered,” Walser said.
The mobile computers also are programmed to help firefighters locate the fire hydrant closest to the fire. Walser said that was something that could save valuable time.
“Hydrant locations are pivotal, in case, for example a hydrant might be buried (by snow) or it’s obstructed by a motor vehicle parked on the side of the road,” Fire Department spokesman Greg Buelow said.
Firefighters have a lot of goals for the new technology, and they agree these are only the beginning uses.
“We’re also looking at putting some pre-planning software on there,” Buelow said. “In other words, when fire inspectors go out and map out businesses and industries in the community, we can put some maps in (the computers) showing the exit locations and where the hazardous materials might be located. That helps makes an efficient response.”
Project leaders said the technology is the biggest upgrade the department has seen in years. Buelow said the computers were paid for with tax payer money from the city’s general fund. In all, the cost of the project was $150,000.