Tablet-based Platform Helps Fire Departments Track Events—and Save Lives

Two California firefighters looked to IoT technology to create a more effective incident response for firefighting teams. They developed Tablet Command, an intelligent platform solution and mobile app that can keep firefighters safer and better prepared in the line of duty.


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Image credit: Tablet Command

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, which tracks and collects information on the causes of firefighter fatalities in the US, 48 firefighters died in 2019 while on duty as a result of injuries or illnesses. This represents a sharp drop from recent years, when deaths averaged about 65 annually.

However, from a firefighting perspective, saving even one life is heroic. Two California firefighters looked to IoT technology to do just that, developing a platform solution and mobile app to help keep firefighters safer in the line of duty.

Contra Costa County Fire Protection district Assistant Fire Chief Will Pigeon and Captain Andy Bozzo created Tablet Command, a response management and incident notification tool. The two came up with the original concept after the department lost two on-duty firefighters in 2007. 

Tablet Command is a tactical incident and command software platform that uses real-time mapping and asset tracking data to help firefighters more effectively and strategically respond to emergencies. The Tablet Command solution:

  • Allows incident commanders to assign units to a call and see all the details of the emergency. 
  • Enables the incident commander to track each unit, assign tasks, and pinpoint vehicle locations. 
  • Provides customized mapping and call notes from the dispatcher, helping to keep an accurate record of the response.

Tablet Command essentially consolidates the battalion chief’s multiple tools and captures the pertinent data into a single screen.

Bringing Order to Controlled Chaos

Currently, approximately 125 departments in North America are using the platform, including the Charlotte, NC, Fire Department. Charlotte FD began using Tablet Command about three years ago. The department’s eight battalion chiefs each have a tablet running the software to help track tasks and resources.

Firefighter holds mobile device showing dashboard of fire data

Image credit: Tablet Command

In the event of an emergency, Tablet Command would be able to find out where firefighters are operating if they lose track of them. Currently, only the dispatch centers and battalion chiefs can access the application, because they’re responsible for responding to complex incidents involving multiple companies and resources.

"Particularly in the initial five to 10 minutes of an incident, there's controlled chaos, and this is a good way to manage and oversee that," says CFD Battalion chief Mike Mitchum. "In that time, our dispatch center will initiate and track the companies using the software prior to the battalion chief's arrival, so when we get there we have very little catching up to do."

Expanded Functionality for Incident Management

Although Pigeon and Bozzo launched the startup initially as a standalone platform, Tablet Command has evolved with greater functionality. The base Tablet Command offering is available as a single-user app. This version works on a tablet and provides instant access to critical incident data, such as location and type and number of units responding, all via an incident dashboard. It provides customizable user maps and multi-agency staffing integration capabilities.

The Tablet Command Enterprise version adds shared situational awareness through real-time sync, so an entire department can view critical information. Enterprise has CAD integration and a Web portal back end. The Enterprise version also features military grade encryption, is custom configurable, offers 99.99 percent uptime, cloud backup, and mobile functionality.

  • Learn about Tablet Command incident management and response software. 
  • Watch a demo of Tablet Command in action as it is used to manage a 2-alarm fire with rescue in a garden-style apartment complex.
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