I am currently in the process of gathering information on vehicle mounted computer systems and software for our department. As I know many localities use Toughbooks, I am interested to know what the overall consensus is on types of computers used, difficulty in launching the overall program, wireless connectivity, as well as software. I am primarily interested in using the software for pre-incident surveys as well as fire inspection and investigation reporting. Any thoughts/pros/cons/recommendations from anyone deploying a system like this would be greatly appreciated!
On Board Computers
My name is William Smith, I am the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management Coordinator for my Town in NJ. We have been wireless with mobile computers for the past 5 years. We just added 8 wireless board band Panasonic Toughbook computer in our fire apparatus. They are mounted with a GPS device for mapping. Our office uses Terminal Server and the apparatus connect thru a dedicated IP address and VPN connection. We use a software packaged call Emergency Software Products www.emergencysoftware.com, this software handles all our RMS. From fire inspection, NFIRS, Personnel and Training, Inventory and Maintenance, Hydrant Data base and Pre-Plan. Our department conducts all the fire inspections, we collect all the builind data, emergency contact informat, floor plans and digital photos. Our Police Department dispatched for us and they get the same information from our pre-plan software. Our software is more up to date then their CAD software. The Fire Department can enter fire reports in the field, get Pre-Plan information and much more.
If you would like more information or photos of how we mounted our computers in the apparatus you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Township of Fairfield
It sounds like were in a pretty similar boat as FMFFPB, we use our mobile data terminals ( MDT's ) for mapping, RMS and will start doing preplans on them shortly.
Our setup is Panasonic CF-29's on Gamber/Johnson mounts connected via cellular modem to our dispatch center (VPN) and the internet. These also use Trimble Placer 450 GPS's and cellular boosters to maintain signal in rural areas. The also have a seciondary USB GPS for our mapping application.
The CF-29/CF-30's are great - they are just extremely expensive to get into. We ran into an issue with our new Pierce engines as far as mounting in the officer area. They were just to high to see over. So I had to get a little creative.
We instead mounted the PC's on top the doghouse and ran everything to a remote touch screen in the officers dash area. Man did it free up a lot of space, as well as giving the firefighters a view of the MDT as well.
I tell you all this because by going with a remote mounted system, we could -in the future- go to a cheaper less rugged PC such as a Dell D630 or other similar semi-ruggedized notebook for a cost savings.
For your purposes, I don't know if vehicle mounting would be the best way to go, it sounds like you want these mobile so the guys can use them in the field. If thats the case, you might look into a Recon unit by Trimble or something in a similar form factor. Even the HTC Shift phone could be a great tool if it meets your needs.
Some things to consider -
- Cellular data packages are going to cost you about $50 a month per unit - you might look and see if regional Wifi/WiMax is an option.
- You pay a premium for ruggedization. Go with the PC/device that fits your needs. You can replace 5 Shifts for the cost of one tricked out Toughbook.
- Get good software. you can have the best hardware in the biz, and if your software sucks, the guys will hate it.
Our system cost about $80,000 for hardware and installation, as well as the software end for our dispatch center coming out of that. It was all done on an interoperability grant from the Feds, so that's something to look into. We can contact any unit in the county police or fire... it comes in handy sometimes.
Lastly - I would put you in touch with AlseaGeospatial, a company here in Oregon that we have worked extensively with. The do excellent work, and really understand the needs of the fire service. If your looking for a custom app or a interface from a handheld to your RMS software, these guys are great.
Please feel free to PM me anytime, and I can provide more info/pics if you want to know more about our system.
Nice site by the way -
I'm sorry but I can no longer help you because you do not have red fire apparatus...
Haha...those funny white trucks I know...thanks for the wealth of information. I'll definately be looking into those suggestions.