Will County emergency responders get new command vehicle
By Tony Graf email@example.com July 28, 2012 9:39PM
Will County's new Incident Command Center is 46 feet long and 13.5 feet high, weighing 42,260 pounds. | Tony Graf ~ Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 30, 2012 6:06AM
JOLIET — Will County has unveiled a new vehicle that will serve as a command center directly at the scene of an emergency.
The new vehicle has so many technological updates over previous mobile units, there essentially is no comparison, said Harold Damron, emergency management director for Will County.
The county board recently got a look at the Incident Command Center, which is the size of a large bus, at the county office building in downtown Joliet.
Tours were given by Damron and other staff from the Will County Emergency Management Agency.
“This is a vehicle that we can bring to an incident scene —major emergencies, major events,” Damron said. “And this provides the facilities and the equipment for whoever’s in charge of that incident. We call them the incident commanders. That can be the fire chief or the police chief or whoever they might be.”
“So for that incident commander, and the key command staff, this provides all the capabilities they need to manage a big incident,” he said.
“When you’ve got a lot of personnel and a lot of resources out there doing things, you need to try to organize and put it together.”
The Incident Command Center has a freightliner chassis and a Cummins turbo diesel engine. The vehicle is 46 feet long and 13.5 feet high, weighing 42,260 pounds.
The body was custom built by Farber Specialty Vehicles of Ohio.
In the forward section of the vehicle, there is space for 10 work stations for the incident commander and key personnel.
The driver’s seat and passenger’s seat can swivel around to create the first two stations; they face a small table, where six staffers can work; and there are two additional stations to the side. Radio communication was important in the equipping of the vehicle.
“We have a lot of radios, because of all the different frequencies that exist around the county, that different agencies use,” Damron said. “We put in a computer control system, so all the radios are installed in a rack, which is in the rear of the vehicle. But they’re all controlled via computer software over an internal network. So any laptop computer that’s in the vehicle can launch that software, and then they can choose what frequency they need to talk on,” Damron said.
“So if I’m the fire chief, and I need a particular fire frequency, I can pull that up in the software. And using the software, using the computer microphone headset, I can communicate on that channel without ever having to touch the actual radio,” he said.
That means the command staff has flexibility: No matter where you are sitting in the vehicle, you can pull up any of the frequencies that are available in the radio rack. In previous layouts, the radio was mounted, and you were limited to whatever radio you had in front of you, Damron said.
Also, staff at the county’s Emergency Operations Center can connect into the vehicle’s radios — via the Internet — and listen and transmit remotely.
This remote capability is possible even if the command vehicle is far off, on the other side of the county, Damron said.
The new vehicle also will serve as a communications backup if there is a disruption in 911 service or other major public-safety communications, Damron said.
The county can bring the vehicle to a location —wherever it needs to be — for support during the problem. In the rear of the vehicle, there are three complete 911-capable work stations.
The vehicle, which costs around $1.15 million, was approximately 80 percent grant funded. 911 surcharge money funded around 20 percent.