By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Fire Department Goes High Tech
Doing some catch up to their police and rescue squad counterparts, Escalon Fire Department has installed its first MDT - Mobile Data Terminal - in a fire truck, giving firefighters an edge when responding to calls.

The computer terminal unit is being used right now in Engine 1-1 but with installation of bracket mounts in other equipment, can be transferred from one truck to another depending on which vehicle will be the 'first responder' to calls.

"When the 9-1-1 call comes in, it gives us the time and the address," Battalion Chief Randy Reid said of utilizing the computer on board. "We're also receiving more information now from dispatchers."

While the engine is rolling, the computer links the department directly with the dispatch center, so sensitive information regarding the call can be transmitted to their MDT, as opposed to going out over the airwaves. That is much the same as with police vehicles, with dispatchers communicating with officers via computer and not radio to keep certain information off the air.

"We also have mapping capabilities, we can zoom in," Reid said of plotting a course to a call.

The Escalon MDT is tied in to AMR (American Medical Response), which serves as the dispatching center for Escalon.

"They have the whole program for us and it's a tool, another tool for us to use to get to calls quicker," Reid said.

The mapping system has every house on every street in the city logged and will be extremely helpful when new firefighters join the department, helping them plot the fastest course to a call.

"When we get our hydrants mapped, it will show where they all are also," said Reid.

Fire Chief Rick Mello said the department plans to get additional MDT units, but for now will use the one they have and switch it between rigs. Reid built the mount that holds the computer in place, set up so the passenger can use the computer and provide direction to the driver.

"It really has come in handy," Reid admitted. "Especially in day to day use."

The department can also use it to monitor the calls of neighboring departments, such as Ripon and Farmington, and will be that much further ahead if they are called on for mutual aid to a call in those areas.

Most departments in San Joaquin County are now equipped with the MDTs, and Mello said he is glad that Escalon has joined in.

"It is another tool for us to use," Mello agreed.

The purchase was included in last year's department budget at a cost of around $5,000. Purchase of another unit is also included in the recently adopted budget for 2009-2010.