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New life-saving computers installed by BIFD

Bainbridge Fire Department assistant chief Luke Carpenter can respond to calls via a touch screen installed in vehicles for status updates and other communications. - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
Bainbridge Fire Department assistant chief Luke Carpenter can respond to calls via a touch screen installed in vehicles for status updates and other communications.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

Island fire and emergency officials now have a new tool to help save lives. The MCT or mobile computer terminal is an onboard computer that gives police, firefighters and EMTs crucial information about the location and situation on all of their calls.

“These new computers give us improved communication and information when we go out,” said Luke Carpenter, the Bainbridge Island Fire Department’s chief of operations.

The computers are a combination of Graphic information systems (GIS) and GPS. It can take the place of a computer and a satellite navigation system. The entire device is controlled using a touch screen mounted next to the driver.

The new technology has been installed on eight fire department vehicles and there are two more waiting to be installed. Only first-responder vehicles like ambulances, fire engines and aid vehicles get the new technology. This ensures that the first units on the scene have as much information as possible.

When a call comes in, officers can simply look at their screen and get more information than ever before. The computer gives them an address and the type of emergency. It provides an updated map with directions to the scene and it gives the location of all other units to help officials coordinate a fast response.

“Seconds make a difference for what we do,” Carpenter said.

The new system can also provide specialized information for certain calls. In the event of a fire or other emergency inside a central building, every computer has an explanation of the strategy that has been planned to deal with that problem. There is even a program designed to help firefighters and medics deal with hazardous materials. If fire officials need more information, they can use the new computers to go online and do research at the scene.

Before the system was available, firefighters had to rely on their own knowledge of the area to find an emergency. The new computers help eliminate that need to save precious seconds during an emergency. Kitsap County funded the new capabilities provided by the onboard computers.

Bainbridge Island Emergency Services bought the new computers using a technology grant from Kitsap County Department of Emergency Management. BIFD received about $110,000 It is being used to implement the new technology county-wide.

If it is successful, vehicles equipped with a computer will be able to see every other vehicle that has the technology. Police, firefighters and EMTs will be able to coordinate, share information and stay in direct contact with one another.

“(The system) allows for a more seamless transfer of information between agencies,” Carpenter said.

The Bainbridge Fire Department has a limited number of people who can respond to calls. This new system will help us use what we have more efficiently and avoid sending people where they are not needed, Carpenter said.

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