Laptop Reliability: Toughbook 19 Survives Ambulance Fire

St. James Ambulance District, founded in 1975, provides top-level medical care to the central Missouri cities of St. James, Rosati, Little Prairie Lake and others. Over the years, the ambulance district began to grow and it became clear that it needed a more efficient method for its EMTs and paramedics to track and record everyday processes.

Initially, St. James decided to upgrade its “pen and paper” documentation process by deploying Toughbook 18 fully-rugged convertible tablet computers. More recently the ambulance district upgraded to the Toughbook 19 notebooks.

Since deploying the Toughbook devices, St. James has streamlined the EMT and paramedics’ documenting process; EMTs no longer have to transcribe documents from paper to the office computer. The Toughbook computers also helped staff improve the accuracy of patient information in reports.

Although providing a reliable mobile platform for recording and sharing information was of paramount concern to St. James, it soon realized the Toughbook computers had other benefits.

On February 25, 2011, the St. James Ambulance District was called to a motor vehicle accident on Interstate 44. While en route to the scene, ambulance 2217 experienced mechanical problems, forcing the driver to come to a complete stop. Upon exiting the vehicle, the crew members noticed smoke and found the undercarriage of the ambulance on fire. The fire quickly spread to the engine and passenger compartments, where the Toughbook 19 was located.

After the fire was brought under control by the local fire departments, one of the crew members realized that he had three unfinished reports on the laptop. The crew grabbed the laptop, tilted it sideways to let the water drain, and hit the power button to find the computer was fully functional with a few minor exceptions.

“The exterior [of the Toughbook 19] was melted and the case was cracked in several places,” stated Bryan Lambeth, EMS supervisor and paramedic for St. James Ambulance District. “I truly didn’t have high hopes, but I hit the power button and the computer fired right up!”

This wasn’t the only impressive survival story for the St. James Ambulance District. About four years ago, a crew transported a patient from St. James to St. Louis, about a 110 mile trip. After dropping the patient off, the crew placed its Toughbook 18 on the back bumper of the ambulance while cleaning the rig. Once finished, they began their trip home, realizing 40 miles down the road the Toughbook computer was missing. Assuming it had been left in the back of the ambulance, the crew continued its drive through an incessant thunderstorm.

Upon arriving in St. James, the crew stopped to refuel and noticed the device had been on the rear bumper of the ambulance the entire trip. The Toughbook device made it back in one piece, but was completely soaked and covered in road grime. When the team brought the device back to base, they cleaned it up and turned it on to find it working perfectly.

The Toughbook 18 and 19 computers have helped to simplify St. James Ambulance District’s reporting process, allowing crews to report from their emergency vehicles, reducing duplicate entry of data and minimizing incomplete information and data errors. Beyond process improvements, the St. James Ambulance District team has experienced firsthand the advantages of using a device engineered to withstand the rigors of harsh operating environments.

In mission-critical environments, like those faced by the St. James Ambulance District, it’s nice to have the piece-of-mind, and bottom-line value offered by one of the industry’s most reliable mobile computing platforms.

What has your Toughbook device endured? We welcome you to share your Panasonic Toughbook survival stories with us!