The Santa Monica Fire Department has new technology, Tablet Command, that will allow local firefighters to become more efficient in their future operations and, hopefully, save more lives in the process.

SMFD Deputy Chief Tom Clemo said in an interview this week the number of calls the department has received since the start of the pandemic has decreased, but with recent cuts to city budget and new health protocols, calls have certainly become more complicated.

“It’s not just COVID. It’s been civil unrest. It’s been multiple deployments to brush fires up-and-down the state that started in July and ended around Halloween. So, you have months of being gone for long, long periods of time… and then we completed some emergency response analysis work, so when we lump all that together it was a pretty unbelievable year for the entire department and city,” Clemo said.

Even prior to these events though, SMFD leaders have needed a system that would allow the department to keep track of personnel during times of chaos and confusion or during the first moments of an emergency, because determining what resources are where has been a challenge for emergency managers for decades — and that hasn’t changed in the times of COVID-19.

“The city is a very busy place, but thanks to Tablet Command the department knows who is on what apparatus. From an iPad we can see all of the calls for service that are going on in the city,” Clemo said. “So, we know what units are available and when units are not available, and that lets our on-duty Battalion Chief have a very good assessment of all the calls that are going on in the fire department. And that is a pretty critical piece when you’re trying to manage a limited amount of resources on those busy days.”

Clemo added, “Incident command and accountability are the most important things we do at the department because we want to make sure our people go home in the morning.”

This is why he and department leaders have consistently sought to update the tenets of SMFD’s technology strategic plan.

“We are updating it as we speak, literally, so we’ll be rolling out a 2021 update for the next three years,” Clemo said as he detailed more of the department’s technological efforts that are possible alongside Tablet Command.

“It’s revolutionized the situational awareness component of the job, and an inability to access that can kill people — and it has. So having this just aids us and allows us to make really good decision making by our officers,” Clemo said. “Because you can tell when you have multiple apparatuses assigned to a fire or a large incident; you can see their rig on a map and you know where that rig has been assigned on the incident; and therefore you know which the members are in that company and you’ll have certainly a good idea on if they’re in the back of the building or in front of the building or roof or wherever we assign them.”