The Spokane (Wash.) Fire Department installed ruggedized mobile computers from General Dynamics Itronix inside its firefighting vehicles to ensure field officers had access to real-time information while addressing an incident, said Chief Bobby Williams.

The Spokane Fire Department serves more than 200,000 residents with 300 members serving out of 14 fire stations. Williams said his department began researching mobile computers because they let field officers interact with dispatchers in the city's 911 center. They also reduce the time dispatchers need to enter data in the fire department's computer-aided dispatch system.

"We were trying to minimize the workload on our dispatchers," Williams said. "In addition, we didn't really have access to any information over the Web."

With the investment in mobile computers throughout the department's fleet, firefighters can enter data — such as location and incident status — directly from the field. In addition, the units can reduce traffic over two-way radio systems from the field back to dispatch.

The department installed the notebooks in its fire apparatus, command vehicles, special-investigator vehicles and prevention vehicles. Users push a button when they arrive and leave a scene, and the data are transmitted over a wireless air card back to dispatch. The fire department can access incident status for the county and city while on the road. It also is being used by the department's fire prevention bureau, which uses the computers to upload data while on inspection.

In addition, with GPS integrated into the rugged notebooks, dispatchers can locate vehicles automatically, which enables them the department to deploy resources more efficiently when there are multiple incidents and also has freed up critical radio airtime, Williams said.

"We primarily use the two-way radios for command and to work the incident, versus using them for status as well," he said.

The mobile computers meet MIL-STD 810F testing for vibration, water and dust intrusion, humidity, and 3-foot drops. The computer also features a patent-pending DynaVue display technology that increases outdoor viewability and detail definition, even in direct sunlight, by eliminating the internal reflections that wash out display clarity in other touchscreen displays, according to the company.

"We have had very little problems with the computers," Williams said. "They work well for us."

The notebook starts at $4,245 for a base configuration.