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Emergency Touch

The compelling duty of a Fire Rescue department is to respond quickly to emergencies to save lives and minimize property damage. In Florida, the Riviera Beach Fire Rescue Department was slowed down by the outdated technology in their response center, wasting valuable time before they could leave for the scene.

The existing system required a cumbersome process for firefighters to pull together information about traffic conditions and fire hydrant locations in order to calculate the fastest route to the scene, and how much fire hose was needed.

The city of Riviera Beach needed an updated system in their four fire stations, and called on the Information Technology department to come up with a solution. At the time, the current IT manager Elvis Mella and his team were looking to make an upgrade that would be effective for their fire rescue units as well as a worthwhile investment.

The Riviera Beach Fire Rescue Department had found that other counties and municipalities were using more sophisticated systems to manage emergency calls, plan routes, and calculate hose length and other factors, with multiple pieces of hardware connected, including a PC with the Active 911 System and a TV. This integration inspired the Riviera Beach Fire Rescue Department’s system, and research began into different devices that could contribute to the best possible response system, in a way that was intuitive and easily adopted.

The team had recently installed an InFocus Mondopad video conferencing and collaboration system at the Riviera Beach Port Center, and the feedback had been extremely positive. The Mondopad’s built-in video conferencing and collaboration features were easily accessed on the capacitive touch screen for white boarding and more interactive meetings.

The Fire Rescue Department needed a fast, intuitive, and large touch screen system like the Mondopad, but didn’t need the video conferencing feature. They also needed to be able to develop purpose-built software that would make the most relevant information quickly and intuitively available to responders. At the time, InFocus was offering Big Touch, a large tablet-like device featuring a fast Intel Core i7 processor running Windows 10 that would allow the fire department to run any applications and pull up multiple layers of information quickly. Available with Android hardware, this also allowed them to seamlessly run the Active 911 system.

As we go to press, InFocus in announcing a revamp of the Mondopad line that further supports the kind of users—like the Riviera Beach Fire Rescue Department—that need a platform approach to touchscreen-based systems, leaving room for the specifics of their needs and installation. Comprising 12 models, the Mondopad Core, Mondopad Launch, and Mondopad Ultra are available in 55-inch, 65-inch, 75-inch and 86-inch models, that provide flexible and collaborative touchscreen solutions specifically designed to meet the unique needs of any team or space. This new lineup acknowledges the fact that touchscreens have now matured beyond videoconferencing and wayfinding to be a critical resource for all kind of applications.

“People want to step away from the desktop and gather around a powerful, fast, easy-to-see shared data interface,” says InFocus Director of Product Marketing Glenn Jystad. “It’s the ‘war room’ effect.” Users, he said, have progressed from early adopters to mainstream users. The way touchscreen-based products are built and sold has to keep up.

“Customers have a much wider range of needs from touchscreens; we’ve responded with a way to more closely match their immediate needs,” Jystad continues. This means if customers need pre-installed features they can have them, but if they don’t need or want them, Mondopads are ready to support whatever in-house, proprietary or off-the-shelf data and communication software they need.

Mondopad will now come to market as a range of products, represented as a common platform with options to size and installed functionality, and with paths to transition as applications require. The BigTouch panels that went into Riviera Beach Fire Rescue Department will now be considered a Mondopad Core component, a great choice for highly specific applications like theirs.

Jystad says people have learned from their phones and the expectation is increasingly that the device will be an intuitive platform with features and apps that “just work” but also with flexibility to adapt to their particular needs.

“Users are also increasingly data-driven, with universal access to browsers, BYOD, and fluidity of data, “ Jystad notes. “Government wants more accessible solutions, and everyone has more expectations for what will happen and what data will be available in that meeting room, whether they’re accessing the room or the touchscreen directly or remotely.”

He points out a special challenge in these software and data-driven touchscreen installations. “Companies will replace laptops every three years, but this is an installed device, so people are expecting to operate them for many years. They also have a varying level of appetite for technology and that changes too over time.”

That’s why the integrated PC module in the InFocus lineup is so critical. Modules can be easily accessed to be replaced as technology evolves.

The Riviera Beach installation foreshadowed these trends.

For them, installing the big touchscreens at each of the four fire stations in the district was simple; it took only a few hours to install and connect to the network. The touchscreen is mounted in each fire station’s ‘huddle room’ – the most high-traffic area of each fire station between the common areas and the fire rescue vehicles. In two to three seconds, the firefighters can interact with live emergencies. Once they receive an alert from dispatch they simply tap the screen, select the alert, and respond to the call.

The new setup reduces incident response times, with more geographical information at the firefighters’ fingertips, allowing them to plan their response and get in the trucks faster. They also spend less time manually calculating before rushing to the scene. On the touchscreen, the firefighters can see various layers of data simultaneously—the fire location, nearby fire hydrants, traffic, and the fastest suggested routes via Google Maps are clearly displayed and refreshed every five seconds.

The fast-moving data overlays allow teams to quickly calculate the number of feet of hose needed, by using their finger to draw a line from the fire location to the nearest fire hydrant — eliminating the need to do manual calculations.

Significantly, they can then immediately transfer the information from the touchscreen to tablets to take with them on the road.

The Beach Fire Department will also evolve, with the goal to add more map layers, including instant water pressure readings of each fire hydrant, and a map of the underground water pipes in the city, so firefighters can locate alternate water sources for hard-to-reach areas.

After seeing how well the touchscreens work in Riviera Beach, the fire chief wants to implement identical systems in other fire stations, and the chief of police is considering similar applications at the local police stations.

“The Fire Rescue service is a profession where there is a direct correlation between response time, and impact to people’s lives and property,” said Riviera Beach Fire Chief, Reginald K. Duren. “The Mondopad, and its ability to integrate with multiple systems not only enables Fire Rescue to arrive more expeditiously, but also to arrive better prepared to meet the needs of the response. We are excited with the current application, and look forward to building an even more robust and intuitive system as the project continues to grow and mature.”

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