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Smartphone and tablet Apps for first responders

Here's a look at the top-rated Fire-EMS apps, many of which were created by first responders

By Jeanette Kozlowski

Nowadays, it's basically a requirement to "have an app for that."

No longer a novelty, iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad applications have become essential tools for mapping, tracking and scheduling daily life.

The number of apps created specifically for the Fire and EMS community has also continued to grow. That growth has given rise to multiple options for staying on top of things in the field. Many of these tools have even been designed by current or former first responders.

Here's a look at the top customer-rated applications geared toward Fire/EMS professionals.

For assistance
Forget your pencil and paper? Let EMS Logger Plus ($2.99) provide you with a virtual notepad. This app, created by a paramedic, allows users to log critical events without a notepad.

Another app that helps you keep an accurate log is EMS Tracker. A free app, it helps you stay organized by dividing up your notes into five categories — events, vitals, meds, actions and logs.

Not only can logs become paperless, but so can your weekly schedule. Firehouse Scheduler ($5.99) tracks multiple custom schedules, vacation-day stats, sick-day stats and the ever-important trade/swap stats.

Kelly Days, overtime and paydays can also be monitored. Have a spouse or friend who works an opposite schedule? Program theirs in the mix, too, to stay in sync.

Respnders can stay fully in the know with an iPhone-size police scanner. 5-0 Radio Police Scanner (free) grants access to police scanners across the country. Listen in while using other applications on your phone at the same time. With built-in code definitions, newbies can quickly determine the nature of each call. The paid version adds 33,000 more feeds to the mix.

And when you're not near the scanner or off-the-clock (and happen to live in San Ramon, Calif.), download Fire Department (free). The Wall Street Journal called it the app that could save your life. Why? It gives community members real-time access to emergency activity. If someone in the area goes into cardiac arrest, the app sends a message to nearby users who have indicated they are CPR trained, giving them the location of the patient.

For safety
Keeping yourself safe is priority No. 1. HazRef 2008 ($3.99) provides users with a database of more than 3,000 hazardous materials and 61 emergency response guides accessible with no network connection. So, if you ever have a run-in with Acetyl chloride, you'll know exactly what to expect.

If you need reference guides on the go, one of the best is Paramedic Protocol Provider ($9.99). This app provides everything you need to know in about three taps. With 250-plus protocols, the app is advertised as a tax deductible work expense, though it suggests consulting a tax accountant first.

Another illuminating resource on the iPhone is myLite Flashlight (free). By using the LED on the phone's screen, it can shed light on any situation, especially one where an actual flashlight is nowhere to be found.

However, the brightest idea yet comes from the iPhone 4's flash. Voted as one of the top 100 essential apps for 2010, Flashlight+ ($0.99) harnesses the light fast with an instant swipe "on" button. Lock the light on with a simple double tap.

If patient are unable to communicate, smart-ICE ($1.99) can talk for them. The app stores a recording of the user's most vital medical information.

It can store up to eight profiles for each family member along with insurance information and a built-in alert that dials emergency services if the patient becomes unconscious.

For education
EMS BLS Guide ($5.99) puts the EMS Field Guide into the palm of your hand. This popular basic reference guide, also available in an advanced version, was tailored to fit each respective tier of EMT certification.

It features detailed illustrations about topics like AHA guidelines, prescription guidelines, protocols, infectious diseases, burn charts and more.

If tracking medicine and dosage is where you have the most trouble, download EMS Meds ($2.99). Written by an EMT student, the application will guide you through 80 different common drugs encountered on the job. With four calculators for dosage, body surface area, simple infusions and drip rates, you will be well on your way to correct dosage, one tap at a time.

For those still in school, EMT Academy: Flashcards, Scenarios, EMS Toolkit ($3.99) makes the perfect study buddy. It includes a complete training guide for EMT-Basic level EMS personnel.

Designed to make you master initial certification, the app boasts a quiz that uses scenario-based questions written in NREMT-B certification style. Flip through 300 electronic flashcards, run through practical exam checklists, and keep a running tally of your scores and progress.

About the author

Jeanette Kozlowski is a writer for Cat5 Commerce, a niche retail operator. She spends most days monitoring the wires for new and exciting developments to share on Tactical Pants, an online store and information hub for the public safety industry. Most recently, Ms. Kozlowski completed research on the Tactical Pants Review. Additionally, she writes a blog about tactical gear. She holds a bachelor's and master's degree from the Missouri School of Journalism.

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