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Fire Apparatus Technology: Comparing Tablet Computers for Fire Apparatus


When it comes to technology in your mobile command center, it just has to work.

While there may be a bunch of new technological devices or apps out there that claim they’ll make your job easier or more efficient, you don’t have the luxury of experimenting with new technology at the scene of an incident without taking a huge risk – the thing you work every day to eliminate.

Yet there has been much debate recently between two tablet computers as to which is the best for the first responder industry. And with technology constantly in a state of flux, it can be hard to keep up. Plus, there is an additional third tablet in the running that, although it has thus far been excluded from conversation about it’s potential use in fire apparatus, could be a worthy competitor.

The three contestants are the Panasonic Toughbook®, Apple’s iPad Air, and the dark horse, the Microsoft Surface Pro 3. While comparing all three may seem like comparing apples and oranges, it’s worth taking a look.

The iPad, at only $499, is one-seventh the price of a Toughbook. And, with the growing importance of social media for first responders, can function perfectly in that role. However, it is comparatively fragile, does not come equipped with a keyboard, and the apps designed for firefighting and emergency response require a considerable amount of time to understand – something that, in the world of first response, is in very short supply.

Here is a better look the key features between the three:

When weighing the benefits of each, it depends on what you value. For example, the iPad air is by far the lightest, but you may not particularly care about weight. So while this list could have been much longer, this much is clear: if you’re looking for a durable device you don’t have to coddle on the scene of an incident (and you’re willing to shell out a few extra bucks), the Toughbook is the clear winner. But if you’re thinking about using a tablet computer in a classroom setting or for training, then an iPad or a Surface Pro is the better choice.

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No matter what technology you’re using, protection from the elements is key. While the Toughbook claims to be waterproof and you can buy a special case for the iPad, why struggle to see the screen through a puddle of water when you can avoid it altogether? This is the exact problem Bumperchute™ Co is striving to solve. With the Bumperchute Command Post vehicle canopy, you get protection from the elements and a more controlled workspace.

Tell us what you think! Is the Toughbook a waste of money, or a valuable investment? Just give us a call, we’d love to hear from you and learn more about what kind of technology you think is the most beneficial to fire apparatus and how we can help.

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