LDS Emergency Preparedness

Be Prepared, Not Scared!

San Marcos Equips Mobile Emergency Center

Posted by Elise on July 22, 2010

Vehicle Offers High-Tech Communications Gear

Firefighters and engineers are at work on San Marcos’ new mobile emergency command vehicle, a high-tech trailer that will allow the city Fire Department and surrounding agencies to set up a command post at the scene of any incident.

The vehicle, said Battalion Chief Dave Schloss, serves “as an emergency backup to our entire city function.”

The city purchased the vehicle last year from the manufacturer, Colorado-based Super Vac Manufacturing Inc. Two San Marcos firefighters drove it back through the Rocky Mountains.

It’s now parked at Fire Station 4, where fire staff and systems engineers have been busy installing the network of equipment that will enable fire officials to communicate with almost any other emergency responders under the most pressing conditions.

Systems installed in the vehicle will allow it to connect to satellites and establish phone lines, to set up a Wi-Fi field around the unit and to translate phone and radio signals across frequencies.

“We can take in people from any agency and sit them down with their equipment, and it will work,” Schloss said.

Last week, Dane Warner, a network engineer with Epoch Universal, installed an Internet-based phone service in the vehicle.

“It gives you a lot more flexibility in how you connect to other systems,” he said.

Devices in the unit can download video feeds from helicopters, allowing a bird’s-eye view of a wildfire or other incident, said Chuck Morton, division chief of operations.

“It’s one thing to be on the ground,” he said. “It’s another thing for the helicopter to show you what the fire’s doing.”

The vehicle and equipment will cost about $860,000, Schloss said. About half of the money to cover the cost comes from city developer fees, with state and federal grants covering the rest.

The grants include funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s State Homeland Security program, which helps state and local agencies build security systems, and its Urban Areas Security Initiative, which promotes regional emergency preparedness in major metropolitan areas.

Because it’s funded through regional grants, the vehicle will be available to neighboring law enforcement and fire departments in the event of an emergency, Schloss said.

The Fire Department will test the vehicle’s systems and conduct training sessions with it this summer, he said, adding that it will be available for use by early fall.

Deborah Sullivan Brennan

North County Times

Thursday, July 22, 2010 8:03 pm

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