IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Situational Awareness Software Used by California Firefighters

Tablet Command is a software-as-a-service tool that helps first responders manage resources and staff on the scene. It’s being used during the California wildfires and in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Managing resources on the scene of an emergency has been a challenge for first responders and emergency managers for decades, and that hasn’t changed. But there are tools to help, and one that is being used on the California wildfire front as well as the pandemic response is the Tablet Command (TC)

The TC was developed by two firefighters in 2007 and has evolved over the years to the challenges of today.

Right now, it’s in use in the fight against Northern California wildfires in San Mateo, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco and San Joaquin counties to manage strike team resources. The teams build an incident in the TC, enter all the resources being used and create a timestamp activity record. The TC essentially creates an activity log of what is happening on the fire line.

“San Bernardino County Fire uses it in every frontline response unit to include our fire engines, squads, ambulances, chief officers, snow cat, boats and helicopter,” said Jeff Birchfield, assistant chief for Division 1 of the San Bernardino Fire Department. “We have found it to be a very effective tool with use of map layers and CAD notes, while en-route to incidents, providing situational awareness for our battalion chiefs to monitor unit status within their battalions.”

The TC also publishes Esri map data, taking an entire map and displaying it on the TC for situational awareness.

The COVID-19 response began in San Bernardino County when the county reached out to the Tablet Command people to ask about tracking resources across the county. San Bernardino sought to use the tool to track EMS and fire as they go to calls involving the coronavirus.

“There’s been a couple of different use cases for COVID,” said Van Riviere, president and CEO of Tablet Command and a former battalion chief in Stockton, Calif. “San Bernardino uses it as a resource management tool and then Marin is creating an incident in TC, and any crew interaction with someone who is potentially COVID-positive is logged and tracked,” he said.

A feature in the TC, called Real Time Sync, allows the local health officer at the health department to be privy to TC incidents involving the coronavirus to help make local public health decisions based on data in the field.

RealTime Sync also allows other commanders with TC to view the actions of another commander to act accordingly, providing a form of situational awareness. The next iteration of this situational awareness is the ability of commanders in neighboring counties to be able to share oneanother’s actions. That is coming later this year, according to Riviere. 

San Bernardino County started with TC by replacing its Mobile Data Computers (MDC) with the platform and using TC as its notification and response incident management tool.

“I recently had a fire that required me to separate from my command vehicle and I had my iPad in hand and was able to manage the incident remotely,” said Jeff Chumbley, division chief of the Valley Center Fire Protection District in California. “The phone app is also favorable with all of the line personnel. I now use my iPad solely and no longer use my MDC.”

The software as a service solution is an annual subscription that starts at about $9,000 for a CAD license and “view only” one-way solution for 10 users. For a two-way, 10-user subscription and MDC replacement, the cost is about $13,000.

“It’s only limited by the imagination and bandwidth of the customer,” Riviere said. “It can provide access to fire plans and through our application, we’re doing integrations with staffing solutions so you can tap on an icon and see exactly who is riding on a fire [truck].”

“By the end of the year, we will have integration built to another mapping solution to allow people to annotate maps.