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Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Are digital tablets the future for LA firefighters?

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The Los Angeles Fire Department will continue beta-testing digital tablets to determine whether the devices reduce response times and improve medical care. 

The City Council's Innovation, Technology and General Services Committee met Tuesday to hear an update on a program that was first introduced last summer by Councilman Mike Bonin. The Westside councilman, who also serves on the council's Public Safety committee, asked LAFD to try out the tablets after learning firefighters were still using paper maps to find their way to emergencies. 

"By equipping them with cutting-edge technology that we're working on with our private sector partners, it will allow firefighters to respond more quickly to structure fires and to medical emergencies [and] it will allow them to better deploy personnel," Bonin told KPCC. 

The tablets will do that, according to Bonin, through mapping technology and apps related to medical records. The focus on new technologies comes as the LAFD revamps its 911 system and Mayor Eric Garcetti's office conducts a nationwide search for a new fire chief. 

"This is part of Mayor Garcetti's effort to reform the LAFD," said mayoral spokeswoman Vicki Curry.  He has installed a new commission and interim chief, and he charged the department with streamlining the 911 process. This change is an important step in reducing response times and better serving the residents of Los Angeles." 

According to the Los Angeles Times, it will be a year before 911 operators are given newly-scripted questions that determine how the department responds to emergency calls. The Mayor's Office did not say whether Garcetti supports that timeline. Meanwhile, Bonin acknowledged that City Hall seems to work at its own speed. 

"I think everything that happens in city government happens exponentially slower than I would like," Bonin said. 

The Fire Commission's next meeting is Feb. 18.

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