Tablets helping Horry County firefighters work quicker, safer

HCFR new technology

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Horry County Fire Rescue firefighters handle emergencies across more than 1,000 square miles. So when they get the call, it's a process to get out the door.

The first step is to "get the address," explained Lieutenant Chris Regan at Station 1 in Socastee. "Write it down, and as soon as we get that, we get our map book."

Regan shows how they have to pull out a physical map and look up the location.

"Street, address, that's when we give our drivers directions as far as how to get there," said Regan.

Even once they arrive, there's more to do before they can get started.

"We'll do a 360 check, which is a complete walk around," said Regan.

It's a to-do list of steps before firefighters can battle the flames in a building. But now the department is switching out maps for iPads. The tablets will have more than your typical GPS; they will carry detailed information to help crews find the best way to get to the scene.

The iPads will be updated with information like road closures, Regan says, adding, "If there's construction going on, a lot of that will be sent out to actually be advised of it."

They'll also be able to see what they're up against before they leave the station.

"We have a picture to see it. So, before getting to the building, we have a picture we can look at it."

Horry County Fire Rescue purchased 40 iPads, one for each fire engine it staffs. Now first responders will have all the information they need in their hands on the scene. This will be another way to partner with local businesses, because the department will store essential information on the device about a building: where the electrical cut-offs are located, gas valves, building exits, and owner's contact information. Storing that particular information will help them to quickly handle the fire and do less damage to the building in the process.

Fire officials also hope to make a system connection where 9-1-1 dispatchers will be able to directly send them more information while they are on the way to a call, because not all the extensive details can be put out over the scanner.

But this system isn't only for iPads. Volunteer firefighters can download it to their cell phone, so they can pull up a call and its details wherever they are and head straight to the scene. Firefighters tell WMBF News that they hope this is only the beginning of their new capabilities.

"It's kind of getting better as time goes on," said Horry County Fire Rescue volunteer firefighter TJ Brady. "So it's definitely a huge asset to us here in the county."

"Every minute counts. The faster we can get there, the faster we can rectify the emergency," said Regan.

The department has had the iPads for a couple of weeks. Firefighters are being trained on how to use it for the job now, and then the program should be fully up and running in six months.

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