The town plans to equip the department's new truck - Engine 5 - with an iPad instead of the more traditional Toughbook, which are laptops designed for durability and to perform in harsh environments.
"We're going to experiment with one. We've been talking to people all over the country about these things," said fire department member Lee Krohn. "The goal is to improve the department's capacity to respond ... in an emergency situation."
Krohn said the department is purchasing one iPad initially to determine if it will meet their needs.
"Assuming it proves it's value like we believe it will, then we can add more over time," Krohn
Chief of the Manchester Fire Department, Phil "Grub" Bourn, said the department planned to correct any problems they might experience in the use of the iPad and then install two more - one in Engine 2 and the other in the Aerial Platform truck.
While many fire departments in cities and towns throughout the country use computers in their fire trucks, use of an iPad is not the most conventional choice.
"We may be somewhat of a pioneer [in the state,]" said Krohn.
Officials at the Vermont Fire Academy in Pittsford said that they were not aware of any other departments in the state that were using iPads in their trucks.
Krohn said that Bourn had spoken with firefighters in Fort Meyers, Fla. who are using Toughbooks in
Originally, Krohn said the department was considering installing a Toughbook in one of the fire engines. However, as the concept of installing a computer in one of the engines began to be discussed more, Krohn said they reached the conclusion that an iPad may serve the department's needs. Bourn said the iPads will be loaded with, among other things, directions to various locations throughout town, floor plans, and the locations of dry hydrants as well as how many gallons per minute they produce.
"It will give us the exact location with a picture of street, the 911 number so we're not radioing back to dispatch," Bourn said. "It will give us the directions right to where we're going. It's going to save a lot of time on directions."
By providing firefighters with directions quickly and efficiently, Bourn said that use of the iPads should result in helping them save more lives, property and improve services.
Both Bourn and Krohn said another advantage of iPad is that it takes significantly less time to boot up than the Toughbook.
"You want the officer in the first response vehicle to turn it on and be able to have all the information at his or her fingertips and be ready," said Krohn.
Another reason the department chose to use an iPad is the difference in cost between the two computers. A top of the line iPad, Krohn said, is about $900 whereas one of the least expensive Toughbooks costs about $3,500.
The department is purchasing the iPad out of a $2,500 gift donated to them by the Manchester Rotary Club, which came from the March Madness event the club held. The department also received another $500 from the Club from the 50/50 raffle at the March.
The department received their new fire truck - Engine 5 - over the weekend. The truck will replace the existing Engine 5 and will be the first vehicle used to respond to fires and emergency situations.