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Fire inspectors set to go high tech

Out with hand-written reports, in with iPads. Other city departments could get them too.

December 15, 2011|By Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com

Glendale fire inspectors soon will be swapping their paper and pens for 33 Apple iPads to input data from the field.

While officials say the change will increase efficiency, it also will add to the amount the city has spent on a data program, which so far has ballooned from an initially planned $1.2 million to almost $2.2 million.

The City Council unanimously approved the project Tuesday.

Director of Information Services Department Ed Fraga said all the glitches with the EdgeSoft software, known as City Services Interface, have been fixed, and since Nov. 2009, it has been fully functional.

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The software is used by city departments to input data and would need to be added to the iPads to make them compatible with the system.

Fraga added that he’s confident the iPad software won’t face the stumbling blocks that plagued the system in the past. Those were mostly caused by bad data conversion when the city switched to the new software in 2008, Fraga said.

Officials have also pointed to added features in the software as a reason for the increased cost.

Apple iPads, a favorite of Fortune 500 firms — many of which are planning projects using the iPad as a field device — may become more widely used at City Hall as well, according to a city report.

While the Fire Department is first, iPads may be used in other departments, such as Glendale Water & Power and Public Works, Fraga said. In the Fire Department’s case, the iPads are expected to increase accuracy and speed.

“We knew we needed a field device, but that’s easier said than done,” Fraga said, noting that iPads are cheaper than laptops.

Fire inspectors will be able to key in information during inspections directly into the system using the software on the iPads. Currently, they type the data up after referring to hand-written notes.

They will also be able to retrieve records online and update them during inspections, according to the report.

“That’s our goal with this, it’s to create more efficiencies,” said Fire Chief Harold Scoggins.

Fire department officials expect to begin putting their new iPads to work in March.

The iPad project is expected to cost about $87,000, with $15,000 per year though fiscal year 2013 for network connectivity. After that, the city’s wireless system should be extensive enough that the network contract won’t be needed, according to the city report.

About $50,000 is budgeted through a grant, with the rest to be covered using fire-related funds.

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