Panasonic reveals rugged devices to support fire fighting teams

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Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service is transforming life for firefighters on the frontline by equipping them with Panasonic rugged Toughpad tablets to access vital information during an emergency.

The 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 are 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, risk assessment requirements, vehicle safety data, safety data on any chemicals stored on site, 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.

John Barlow, the communications project manager and a former station commander with 35 years of experience in the service, is responsible for modernising Cambridgeshire Fire & Rescue Service's frontline communications devices.

"We are investing to change all the existing MDTs to a more agile device to allow the crews to work more efficiently and smartly," he explained. "The Panasonic devices are ideal for all the conditions we work in. We can read the device in bright sunlight and it is 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 sees other big advantages for firefighters in being able to use devices at the scene of an emergency. For example, at a road accident to identify important information about the safety features of a vehicle, such as airbags, so that they can quickly be turned off before releasing trapped passengers from the car.

"This type of use will be an absolute bonus to operations, making the task so much simpler and enabling the firefighters to work more effectively than ever," said John.

Commenting on the value the devices bring to the fire service, Callum Faint, Cambridgeshire Area Commander, said: "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 the information can be right there, on the scene, really improving our operational effectiveness."

"Today several thousand Panasonic Toughbook notebooks and Toughpad tablets are being used by Fire Services across the UK and Ireland," said Will Holmes, Emergency Services Corporate Sales Manager for Panasonic Toughbook. "It's the portability of the devices, their optimised connectivity, clear daylight readable displays, rugged design and Panasonic's ability to design total solutions around the device that are proving to be the winning factors." says Will Holmes, Emergency Services Corporate Sales Manager for Panasonic Toughbook.

Will, who has spent the past six years at Panasonic Toughbook and previously designed vehicle mounting solutions for rugged devices, has been working with Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service to ensure its Panasonic deployment perfectly matches their needs.

Panasonic Computer Docking Solutions team has designed the mounting solution for the Panasonic CF-D1 tablets in the front of the vehicle. The team utilised 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 rear vehicle mounted FZ-G1 tablets, the solution team designed a bespoke bracket for Cambridgeshire that can be fitted on all its vehicles genericaly. The design also incorporated into the bracket a handheld barcode reader, so that it could be installed in a convenient location next to the tablet.

The Panasonic project management team is working closely with the fire service and their 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 Autumn 2017.

Designed to be tested

The fully rugged Toughpad FZ-G1 tablet with Windows 10 Pro sets the new benchmark for outdoor viewable tablets making it ideal for field workforces in outdoor scenarios. With its capacitive, 10-finger multi-touch display and digitizer pen and flexible configurable ports this device can be used to view high definition documentation and images in the field whilst benefitting from connectivity options to ensure data is always available when needed. The flexible configuration port gives business users the legacy port options they require in a compact, fully rugged and lightweight form factor.

The Panasonic Toughbook CF-D1 has a larger 13.3" widescreen HD IPS display to easily run real-time diagnostic programmes, read telematic data and view schematics and designs. The screen has been specifically built for clarity both inside buildings and outside in bright sunlight. The resistive touchscreen allows for easy data input using fingers, gloved hands or pens. Powered by the sixth-generation Intel® Core Platform and runnning the Windows 10 Pro operating system, it makes the Toughbook CF-D1 a unique tool for emergency services operators.

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