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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Station Life: Why Are There Computers in the Fire Truck?

Click on any of the photos in this entry for a larger view
You may have noticed, if you have ever looked inside one of our fire apparatus, computers mounted on the dashboards. We are often asked what the computers are used for and how we benefit from having them. 

The computers, specifically named ‘Mobile Data Terminals,’ or ‘MDTs’, are very important to the Brentwood Fire & Rescue Department for a number of reasons. When a fire company is dispatched to an emergency of any sort, dispatch sends that apparatus a form containing all the information that they have received regarding the call. 

An example of a Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) form for a recent structure fire call.

After a call is dispatched, the map program on the computer will highlight where the call is as well as the best route for the apparatus to take. The map program on the computer also shows fire department personnel where all the other fire apparatus are located in the city along with Brentwood Police. This allows us to see how soon a second company will arrive, when PD will be on scene, or even help avoid crashes if two fire trucks are approaching the same intersection from different directions.

BFR’s mapping program showing the location of an incident as well as the locations of several apparatus.

The computer program used on our apparatus allows each fire unit to see the status of the other Brentwood units. This shows if another unit is available, training, in-quarters, on-scene, or en-route to a call. The program also allows dispatch to send written messages to each apparatus as well as allowing Brentwood Fire units to communicate with each other via written messages. This cuts down on radio traffic and allows for better communication throughout the department. 
The location and disposition of each BFR unit is available at any time.
Each Brentwood Fire Apparatus is equipped with a Rocket System which provides the apparatus with on-board Wi-Fi access. The Rocket System also allows the engine’s location and speed to be tracked as well. 
The on-board Wi-Fi access allows FD personnel to use the internet to look up any pertinent information that might be needed at a particular emergency. This could include weather information, specific necessary medical information, hazardous materials information, and contact information for any variety of reasons. 
The Mobile Data Terminals are a vital piece to the Brentwood Fire & Rescue Department. By having accurate dispatch information, maps and routing, communications, and the internet, it allows us to serve the people of Brentwood in a safer and more effective manner.