Denver Fire Inspection Tablets Still Not Working


Computer tablets bought by the Denver Fire Department for building inspections cost taxpayers more than $340,000, sat on shelves for nearly two years, have repeated problems that have been documented and the costs continue to grow.

As the CALL7 Investigators first reported in May, the plan for the tablets was to save the city money. At that time, Denver Fire Chief Eric Tade promised the program would be fully functional by July.

But the tablets are still plagued with issues.

"This doesn't look good for the city," Call7 Investigator Tony Kovaleski said to Assistant Fire Chief Joe Hart.

"Well, it definitely doesn't look good for the fire department," said Hart, who has been frustrated with the tablets.

"The everyday firefighter, from your perspective, what do they think of these tablets?" asked Kovaleski.

"They're apprehensive every time they use them," said Hart. He was only allowed to talk with 7NEWS if two members of the Denver Fire administration monitored the discussion.

"Chief Tade has two of his representatives watching this interview. Does that intimidate you at all?" asked Kovaleski.

"No," said Hart.

Denver Fire uses the industrial strength tablets for fire inspections around the city.

The 114 tablets cost about $1,400 each.

The CALL7 Investigators went along for one inspection and on that day the tablet worked as it was designed.

But in the last six months more than 500 repair tickets were generated in the department listing a multitude of issues, including tablets not syncing, users unable to log on and in some cases they were simply listed as "not working."

Two repair tickets noted "catastrophic failure" and another read, "Inspected 14 buildings on 3 tablets zero uploaded."

"Did you expect the tablets to cause this?" Kovaleski asked Ethan Wain, who's in charge of the city's Technology Services.

"We expected it to go a little smoother than it did but that's hindsight," said Wain, who acknowledged there are ongoing issues with the tablets that have taken a significant amount of his staff's time.

Despite the problems, Wain believes the program is a success.

"I feel this was a good project and I would say the credit can be shared between the department and Technology Services. Now, we've got some frustrated users and they have every right to be frustrated," Wain said.

The frustration was made evident in an internal memo obtained by the CALL7 Investigators and addressed to Denver Fire's upper management. It reads, in part, "The tablets, as we have documented, have had repeated failures and breakdowns."

"It shouldn't have taken this long to get to where you are, would you agree?" Kovaleski asked Chief Tade.

"I would agree it's taken longer than anyone expected for the program to be implemented," said Tade. "I take 100 percent responsibility for what is going on right now. We are committed to making them work."

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