Made With Ortelius

By Terry Martin

Cathedral City Fire Department

Ortelius and iPads for Emergency Response

Somewhere an alarm blares and firefighters quickly put on their gear and jump onto a fire engine to rush to the scene of a blaze. In the front cab, a captain uses the radio and fumbles through a more than 100-page binder of addresses to find the exact location of the call.

In a job where one or two minutes can mean the difference between someone living or dying, Cathedral City, CA, Fire Engineer Terry Martin has found a way to shave a few more precious seconds off response times in his city, using maps made in Ortelius and viewed on iPads.

“Before, when we would get a call, we would have to pull out a map (using old-fashioned binders) and navigate to a grid number and then look for a specific address,” he said. “The addresses are so small in the book that bouncing down the road at 2 a.m. and trying to pick out a number or street name when you are half asleep was kind of difficult. Plus, turning on the lights in the cab would make it very difficult to see.”

So Martin customized some iPads they had for his department. He used fire-resistant material that firefighters use for their coats and made a cover for the iPads so that they can resist the desert heat, dust and/or any other danger they may encounter in the front seat of the fire engine. He took all the information from the three-ring binders and combined them into easy to use digital maps. Using Ortelius, Martin built the maps then exported them to PDF so they would be zoomable without loss of resolution. He uses ”PDF Pro” for iPad as the viewing app. The maps, which can be scrolled through with a touch of a few fingers, include hydrant locations, housing-complex layouts and other critical information firefighters need. “We can add whatever we want to these maps, from trash shoots to exit points,” he noted.

Now, the devices are being used in every paramedic truck, fire engine and chief’s vehicle that the Cathedral City Fire Department has in service. Cathedral City Fire Chief Robert Van Nortrick said the digital mapping lets his firefighters find addresses faster and the devices are much easier to use than the bulky binders of the past.

Martin, a 24-year veteran on the job, is a two-time honoree as the Cathedral City Fire Department Firefighter of the Year at the annual Peace Officer and Public Safety Awards in Palm Desert.

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