Tablet Command photo contributed.

published on April 4, 2022 - 2:27 PM
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Alarm bells ring, waking sleeping firemen from their sleep, pressing them into speedy response – uniforms are donned, equipment is prepared, trucks are loaded and in just the span of a few minutes, a team is dispatched to the site of a house fire.

Upon reaching the fire, the team discovers that, despite arriving on scene with a full crew, they will not be able to contain the blaze alone. Backup is called, and in the meantime, the team rushes in, hoses drawn and helmets on, ready to help.

But something goes wrong.

The initial confusion leaves fire crews with only one visible option: rush in and assist the occupants – an elderly couple who are still trapped inside. In their efforts to save the couple, two firefighters lost their lives, when a fire gas ignition, or “flashover” scorched the interior of the house.

In the aftermath, four people lost their lives, and in the ensuing investigation, it was discovered that a simple line of clear communication could have prevented much of the tragedy from taking place.

Tablet Command aims to eliminate that very frightening – and very real – story from taking place by streamlining the line of communication between dispatch and firefighters in the field.

Using an app-based system, Tablet Command offers the ability for departments to immediately relay information to their teams directly through a two-way interface system.

“We present concise, accurate, timely information in a user-friendly interface that’s easily consumed and interacted with,” said Van Riviere, former Stockton Battalion Chief and CEO of Tablet Command. “We developed a two-way interface, which means the traditional Windows mobile data computers that have been deployed are being replaced by many of our customers with iPads, and that device provides them all of the functionality of a mobile data computer.”

Riviere added that Tablet Command enables users to view one another’s incident management information in real-time, as well as supporting transfer of command, ensuring that if an incident escalates, management of the incident can seamlessly be transferred from one user to another.

“The solution had to be easy to use and the data we present had to be easy to interpret,” Riviere said, adding that former fire chief and Tablet Command co-founder Andy Bozzo conceived of the idea while playing popular online mobile game “Words with Friends.” He considered that if data can be shared seamlessly through a mobile game, it could also be shared through a communication and control app such as Tablet Command.

The Fresno Fire Department has been utilizing the system since 2018, and Fresno Battalion Chief Tim Fulmer says the system has expedited response times from their previous dispatch system.

“As soon as the information is input into the computer aided dispatch system, it actually sends an alert out to firefighters’ phones through Tablet Command and gives them the information so they can start working their way to the fire apparatus to respond,” Fulmer said.

“It allows us the opportunity to get our firefighters on the vehicles a little bit quicker than with the actual dispatch system.”

The system, which can be downloaded to firefighters’ cell phones, ensures that whether a team member is sleeping, eating, exercising or enjoying downtime, as soon as the call comes in, they are prepared and ready to respond.

“It’s not something where I can particularly say ‘there was this call where it helped us,’” Fulmer continued. “It helps us on every call because it allows our firefighters to get there quicker.”

Tablet Command is employed by over 400 users in Fresno, mainly through the firefighter’s personal devices.

“Pretty much every member of the Fresno Fire Department is walking around with TC Mobile in their pocket,” Riviere added. “What that gets them is early notification and great information about the nature of the incidents they’re responding to.”

While the system is employed by the Torrance Police Department and Mountain View Police Department, the primary footprint is in fire.

Incident management systems, while efficient in supporting fire departments, are still in their beginning phases for police departments due to the confidential nature of many police department cases.

But Riviere hopes to someday assist police departments as well.

“We’re actually engaged with a number of county-level agencies in Florida that have an interest in looking at Tablet Command as a dispatch center-side deployable,” Riviere said. “Our primary footprint today is in fire [however] we see great opportunities for growth in EMS and in law.”

Tablet command is consistently implementing updates to the system and hopes to be able to bring their unique style of two-way communication to more emergency services in the future.

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