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Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service deploys Panasonic rugged tablets to assist front line firefighters

Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service is “transforming” working life for its firefighters on the front line by equipping them with Panasonic’s rugged Toughpad tablets to access vital information during emergency episodes.

The Fire and Rescue Service is deploying 13-inch Panasonic Toughbook CF-D1 tablets in the front cabs of its fire appliances. These Mobile Data Terminals (MDTs) are permanently mounted in the front of the vehicle and connected to the existing Tetra Network. They will be used for providing vital information on the way to a call-out, such as sending status updates to Command and Control, outlining risk assessment requirements, vehicle safety data, safety data on any chemicals stored on site and details on the occupancy of the premises and nearby hydrant locations.

Smaller and lighter 10-inch Panasonic FZ-G1 Toughpad tablets are being installed in the back of the appliances for use by firefighters inside and outside of the vehicle when at the scene of an emergency. These devices will be used day-to-day for the asset management of equipment and inventory and, in the future, for providing valuable emergency information on site, such as vehicle crash rescue data, as well as for regular community duties such as home fire safety surveys and hydrant inspections.

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John Barlow is responsible for modernising Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service’s front line communications devices. “We’re investing to change all the existing MDTs to a more agile device so as to allow the crews to work more efficiently and smartly,” explained Barlow. “The Panasonic devices are ideal for all the conditions in which we work. We can read the device in bright sunlight and it’s built to be used outside and in wet conditions without any problems. Feedback from field trials with the devices has been positive.”

In the future, Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service sees other big advantages for firefighters in being able to use devices at the scene of an emergency. For example, at a road accident, firefighters can use the devices to identify important information about the safety features of a vehicle, such as airbags, such that they can quickly be turned off before trapped passengers are released from a vehicle).

“This type of use will be an absolute bonus for operations, making the task so much simpler and enabling the firefighters to work more effectively than ever,” enthused Barlow.

Commenting on the value the devices bring to Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service, Callum Faint (Cambridgeshire’s area commander) informed Risk UK: “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 that the information can be right there, on the scene. This really helps to improve our operational effectiveness.”

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The Panasonic Computer Docking Solutions Team has designed the mounting solution for the Panasonic CF-D1 tablets in the front of the vehicles. The team used as much of the existing infrastructure as possible, such as the power management units, to keep costs down. It has also future-proofed the vehicles by fitting antennas that will work with the imminent introduction of the new Emergency Services Network.

For the FZ-G1 tablets, the Panasonic Computer Docking Solutions Team designed a bespoke bracket for Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service that can be fitted on all of its vehicles generically. The design also incorporates into the bracket a handheld barcode reader, such that it could be installed in a convenient location next to the tablet.

The Panasonic Project Management Team is working closely with Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service and its nominated installation contractors to support the build and imaging of the devices alongside installing the units in the appliances. The deployment will be completed before the end of the Autumn.

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