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Fair-goers get upclose look at mobile EOC

July 22, 2009
Visitors to the Crawford County 4-H Fair got to peek inside one of the area's new mobile emergency communications and command centers last week as the 53-foot semi-trailer was brought in for public viewing. With more than a half-million dollars put into the trailer and more to be added, the trailer is a major resource for the 12-county District 10 region.

"There's 10 of these, one in every district," Crawford County Emergency Man-agement Agency Director Kent Barrow said. "Some aren't as big as this one. None are any bigger. The state has one that's a semi-trailer, and they have three smaller mobile communication command trailers. Total-wise, in the state of Indiana, there's 14 that IDHS (Indiana Department of Homeland Security) has, and then some counties have their own small units. In Crawford County, we're working on one now to basically support this or to stand up and get ready before this arrives."

A state-of-the-art communications system inside the 53-foot mobile emergency operations center works on several radio frequencies and has Internet and television links. Photo by Wade Bell
The trailer is state-of-the-art with a full communications center. Besides the radio systems, there is Internet linkage and a security camera system.

"There's a complete radio system with 800 megahertz, VHF, UHF," Barrow said. "There's a piece of equipment in there, the ACU1000, that basically we can take all those radios and tie them all together so they can talk to each other. Right now, with the systems we have, we couldn't do that. With computer software, we can do that with the ACU1000.

"The trailer has digital TV so we can get local TV wherever we take the trailer. It has four cameras on the outside of it so we can watch all the way around the trailer. It also has a camera on the bottom of the trailer so we can observe for anything that's underneath the trailer. If there were terroristic threats or anything like that, we could see those things."

"We want to know what's going on out there, especially if we were going to put this in the middle of an incident, if we were going to run this as an incident command post in an area that was completely wiped out," Barrow said. "We could watch, through the cameras, things that were going on with the incident."

Barrow said the trailer will be used for large-scale disasters such as tornadoes and earthquakes. Had the firehouse at Marengo been destroyed during the 2004 tornado, the trailer would have provided an ideal command station.

"All of the decision-making and everything would be done inside the trailer with elected officials, sheriff, emergency management, fire chiefs and that sort of thing," he said.

The trailer is also self-sustained with its own support system.

"The trailer also has air conditioning and heating," Barrow said. "It has a 55,000-watt generator that we run off of, so it's self-contained. The generator goes everywhere the trailer goes. The Kawasaki Mule goes everywhere the trailer goes. That lets you move people around.

"Full communications; it has a 35-foot mast on it with antennas that runs all the radios. That mast automatically detects lightning in the area and wind gusts. If it detects lightning in the area within so many miles, it will automatically come down. Same with the wind gusts."

"Some of the half-million we're getting ready to put into it, we're putting a console into the communications room so all the radios will be in one area for one communicator in the trailer," Barrow said.

"He'll be able to talk on eight radios by the push of a button. We're also going to put a camera on the mast with a joystick so we'll be able to look around 360 degrees and zoom in and out."

Having the trailer at the fair allowed Barrow and his team valuable practice time in the command center's setup. The trailer is stationed in Vanderburgh County in Evansville and can be in place in the county in about two hours.

"Every county will have a team that, when this thing shows up, my guys will be here to set it up," Barrow said. "They (District 10) will bring a group of guys up also to help set it up. We can be up and operating within 15 minutes after it gets here. It does have battery back-up so once the trailer's here and unhooked, until we get the generator up, we can get the radios up and communicating.

"It takes a little longer to get the cameras on the trailer and get the digital box up for TVs," he said.

District 10 provided training in Jennings County with more than 75 vehicles and 100 participants convoying to the mock incident site. Indiana can also provide the trailer outside the state to the coast or any disaster where it might be needed.

"It's a big resource. It's definitely a resource for the county," Barrow said. "There's so much more that the district has that can be brought in. In September (after the windstorm), we had about six or eight generators that came in and pretty much powered everything that needed power during the windstorm. Those were other counties' equipment that as a district we worked together. That's what we do, and I requested those generators and they brought them to us.

"Hopefully, we'll have one of those generators that we can take someplace if they need it. That's the district concept and that's what it's all about and we're here to help each other."

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