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Modernizing their machinery

December 13, 2003

Jackson Bell

Consider them mobile computer terminals version 2.0.

Earlier this week, the Burbank Fire Department finished installing

a computerized communication system in each of its emergency

vehicles.

Battalion Chief Bill Sanders says the upgraded system by Motorola

Inc. "puts us ahead of the curve."

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"It's a giant leap forward in technology and in what these units

are capable of doing," Sanders said. "They are like rugged laptop

computers."

The mobile computer terminals, which use Microsoft programs, allow

firefighters in the field to retrieve dispatch information, send

e-mails and view "pre-fire plans." The plans include information

about building layouts, how many people might be inside and any fire

protection systems.

"This will increase efficiency from the dispatcher to the

emergency unit," Sanders said.

Officials from Verdugo Fire Communications Center -- the umbrella

organization for nine area fire departments that include Burbank,

Glendale and Pasadena -- initiated the application of the new

technology. Burbank Fire Department installed the systems in 20

engines, trucks, rescue ambulances and command vehicles.

The equipment cost $220,000, said Battalion Chief Tracy Pansini,

who was responsible for overseeing the installation in Burbank.

The upgrade, Pansini added, was sorely needed because existing

mobile data terminals were 20 years old, unreliable and too

antiquated to service.

"This new technology will make our jobs a little bit easier and a

lot safer," he said.

The new terminals will also make it possible for firefighters to

access a mapping system that shows satellite photos of the city and

vehicle location, and will allow personnel to input fire prevention

forms on-site. Those features will be updated within two years,

Pansini said.

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