OLDSMAR – For years, swollen binders full of papers were kept in each Oldsmar fire engine.
Firefighters, racing to emergency scenes, tore through hundreds of pages to find the information they had previously recorded about the interiors of buildings.
Around 2003, that "preplan" information was transferred to a computer.
Now, the Oldsmar Fire Department has taken another technological step forward: Firefighters on their way to fires use iPads, updated in real time.
"If there's an emergency at 2 a.m., we have instant access to the lay of the building," said Oldsmar fire Chief Dean O'Nale. "The location of doors and windows, contact information for the building owners — everything."
In November, the department got four iPad 2s, which start at $399 per device, and began paying $40 per month for each data plan.
The technology makes everyone's job easier, O'Nale said.
Long before disaster strikes, inspectors visit buildings, take pictures and upload details about the building layout. Building owners can digitally sign off on the city records.
Firefighters can access the information any time, anywhere. All records are stored as PDF files in an application.
So far, O'Nale said, the transition has been problem-free.
In future months, Oldsmar may buy more iPads, he said. The devices would be useful for damage assessment after hurricanes or tornadoes.
"We're taking advantage of the technology we have," O'Nale said. "We're evolving with it."
Danielle Paquette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4224.