The Chula Vista (Calif.) Fire Department and the St. George Fire Department in Baton Rouge, La., currently are testing’s FHinspector application for iPad. The application, which was introduced at Fire-Rescue International in August, improves a department’s ability to conduct inspections and track relevant data, such as building details, evacuation plans and hydrant locations, according to ACS Vice President Sanjay Kalasa. The software costs about $500 on top of the cost of the iPad.
“It boosts efficiencies for sure, and it ensures that occupancies aren’t missed,” Kalasa said.
While confident that the software will do everything that a fire department needs it to do regarding inspections, Kalasa said that concerns exist regarding the iPad’s ruggedness. “Even though we’re using an Otter case, it’s not a Toughbook,” Kalasa said.
“Our customers are wondering how reliable it will be in the field. That’s what this beta test is all about. We want them to play with it, and then we’ll see. If it holds up in the field, then we’ll have a pretty good product on our hands.”
Kalasa added that the company is working with several vendors on strap options that could be used with the iPad. “We’d like something similar to the radio strap, which they’re used to, so it’s off their shoulder, but when they inspect they can pull it up, and then let go of it when they’re done,” he said. “Without a strap, I’m concerned that they can easily drop this thing.”
The company expects to release the results of the beta test sometime around the first of December, but already it has learned something, Kalasa said.
“St. George had a good idea. If you want to take advantage of the platform’s mapping function, you need Internet access. We can put a wireless card into the iPad at extra cost, but St. George pointed out that almost every fire truck has a mobile data terminal,” Kalasa said. “So they’re going to install a Mi-Fi card that will let them operate not only the MDT, but also up to four iPads, which will make company inspections much more efficient.” The device is a small, portable wireless router that effectively turns the apparatus into a hotspot.
Kalasa said the company would be ready when the much anticipated Android tablet finally emerges, perhaps as early as January. “Our software is platform agnostic,” he said. Further down the road, the company hopes to expand the software into other areas, such as training and electronic patient-care reporting.
“We want to look at everything a fire department does and see whether it’s applicable to the iPad,” he said.
Kalasa acknowledged that moving into the emergency medical arena would present some challenges. For instance, how would the iPad hold up if it were exposed to airborne pathogens? But compliance with HIPPA regulations wouldn’t be a problem, he said.
"First, we have built encryption into the software, so any data that would be transmitted is protected,” Kalasa said. “Also, the iPad not only is password-protected, it also has a feature that wipes the computer clean after 10 authentication attempts. It becomes just like a brand new iPad.”