Taking the Heat: Rugged Tablets for Fire Departments

Getac in Fire TruckThe work that firefighters do puts very tough demands on devices which they use in the field. Compared with how well paper would hold up while extinguishing a fire, though, using a tablet really does make sense. It just has to be a tablet that's tough enough to withstand high temperatures, rough treatment, and occasional soaking. If firefighters have to handle a tablet carefully and keep it clear of all hazards, they'll be slowed down in critical situations.

The value of tablets at fire scenes

At the scene of an alarm, a tablet can perform many functions:

      • — Getting GPS guidance en route
        — Entering notes about the situation, by hand or voice
        — Recording interviews with people at the scene
        — Communicating with the station or with firefighters at other locations
        — Viewing hydrant locations and floor and exit plans
        — Viewing documents on handling unusual situations, such as hazardous materials

Measuring a tablet's ruggedness

A tablet computer requires several features to hold up in the area of a fire.

— It has to include cellular data communication, so it can connect to the Internet from wherever it's taken.
— It needs a good rating on several MIL-STD-810G tests. Test Method 501.5 measures a device's resistance to high temperatures. It includes three procedures, for storage, operation, and tactical-standby to operational.
Procedure II (operational) is the most important part of 501.5 for fire departments. It consists of two parts. The constant exposure test determines how well a device holds up while being used in continuous proximity to a heat source. The cyclic exposure test cycles the ambient temperature from 30 to 49 degrees Celsius (about 86 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit).
Using a tablet in the field, especially in cold weather, can involve sudden temperature changes. A device's performance under Test Method 503.5, temperature shock, measures its ability to move from a cold truck to a dangerously warm space. This test rates a device's ability to withstand sudden changes in temperature, where “sudden” means a change of more than 10 degrees C. in one minute.
Test method 516.6 (shock) covers a device's ability to survive being dropped or struck. Tablets will get dropped more at the scene of a fire than under ordinary circumstances. Procedure I, functional shock, and Procedure III, fragility, are most relevant to rough treatment in the field. During Procedure I, the device is struck or dropped at a variety of angles, to make sure it can withstand impact from any direction.
To determine a device's resistance to water and ashes, its IP rating (International Protection Rating) is the relevant datum. It consists of two digits, where the first is resistance to solids and the second resistance to liquids. A first digit of 5 or 6 says that the device won't let in enough dust to interfere with operation, and nothing bigger than dust particles can penetrate. If the second digit is 5, the device will withstand water jets from a 6.3 mm nozzle, and 6 will withstand jets from a 12.5 mm nozzle. (No mobile device is likely to survive a direct blast from a fire hose.)

The value of a rugged tablet

With a tablet that can hold up under tough conditions, firefighters can confidently take it to the scene and not worry excessively about how it will hold up. Ruggedized tablets will withstand all but the worst circumstances and won't require frequent replacement.

The same tablets are useful during non-emergency situations. They're well suited for reviewing inspection checklists, examining equipment, training personnel, conducting presentations, and retrieving records. Having a supply of tablets designed for extreme conditions allows their use in the full range of circumstances a fire department encounters.

Getac’s featured tablets for fire departments include:

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