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Trends in Command Vehicles

Written by Kathy Marks

Major Incident, Off-Site 9-1-1 and Planned Response mobile command centers can be used as a mobile 9-1-1 center in the event a fixed site center is evacuated or damaged, or as a way to assist a fixed site during a time of overwhelming call-ins. Mobile command centers are also available for deployment to the site of a terrorist attack or natural disaster, major crime scenes, standoffs, and major public events.

 

Farber Specialty Vehicles

www.farberspecialty.com

Farber’s mobile command vehicles range from the Mercedes Sprinter or Ford E450 up to 45-foot buses with 40 feet of useable space and 1,000 square feet inside. Customers can build from the ground up or use an existing chassis. According to Steve Goodyear, Vice President of Sales, “We take the Farber Specialty name seriously and it’s not what’s special to us, but rather what’s special to our customers.”

Larger agencies often choose Farber’s 45-foot body chassis, although they have 40 different vehicle lines with state-of-the-art equipment. The vehicle can communicate on various fronts, including VPN, secure Internet and high-tech phones. The vehicles have FLIR night cameras and INTEC cameras and sidewinders, mounted to a Wilbert Mast with hard drive recorders documenting the 360 security cameras. Trailers have fully expandable walls and slideout rooms are used extensively. Farber provides vehicles for rough terrain including four-wheel drive vehicles.

Goodyear cautioned that there are always a lot of questions about writing specs and customers can find their assistance very helpful. “There is no question that this assistance is a big part of what we do.” He stated that Farber’s experience building vehicles year after year, along with customers constantly bringing them new information, allows them to build better vehicles and be responsive to customer needs.

Duane Martin, DEO, Project Management, METRO Los Angeles, stated that they are very happy with their Farber state-of-the-art vehicle, which they call MOC-1 (Mobil Operations Command-1) and they particularly like the flexibility and interoperability of the vehicle. Their use is mostly concentrated on Continuity of Operations in the event of a disaster or impact to service because during a catastrophic event, they can seamlessly deploy MOC-1 and remotely operate both rail and bus operations from MOC-1 within the hour. They also use MOC-1 as an incident command vehicle for major accidents within a mutual aide situation, as well as possible terrorist events, civil unrest, earthquakes and the like.

Martin pointed out that drills are another key component of the use of Farber’s mobile command vehicle and they try to keep all field and operations personnel engaged in emergency response and continuity of operations. He stated, “Incidents involving service impacts that may need field resources for extended hours or days suit MOC-1’s purview perfectly. With 15 workstations and immediate access to our radio and mobile data, CCTV, and intelligence information, she has the information that is critical to manage just about any incident thrown at us.”

Martin reported they have the capability of using fiber, microwave, satellite and regular 3/4G antenna to communicate. Their new MOC-1 mobile command vehicle was paid for with a state security grant.



La Boit Inc.

www.laboit.com

La Boit Specialty Vehicles manufactures command centers from 26 feet to 40 feet, built from the chassis up. La Boit reports that what sets them apart is that they build from the ground up, rather than taking a shell and retrofitting it. The from-the-ground-up build allows more control over things like the wall structure and interior design, including available 7-foot interior heights, making it nice for taller officers.

Every order is custom built and may include LED lighting and siren packages, state-of-the-art communications and technology packages, smart boards, and various radio and communications equipment. For example, some need mast packages for surveillance from a distance, while others want strictly communications packages for hostage situations.

Mast/camera and light and siren packages are the most often ordered features.

Jurisdictions often use seized or grant money such as GSA schedule—Contract GS-30F-0012S for the purchase. Jurisdictions may “piggy back” an order from another agency so they don’t have to put out bids.

La Boit’s most popular size is the 33-foot unit, while the 26-foot one is also often ordered, particularly by smaller jurisdictions, because the cost is much less than the bigger diesel trucks with more expensive chassis. The mast package is a 25-foot mast and the camera attached to the mast is so sophisticated, you can see the color of someone’s eyes from a mile away.

Marty Clements, Director, Jackson-Madison County (Tenn.) EMA, stated that they have used their La Boit mobile command unit for several types of missions.  
For instance, they used it in a multi-state manhunt and the successful apprehension of two criminals from Louisiana, where it was the main informational and planning space for the US Marshals, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Louisiana State Police, Madison County Sheriff Office, and the Jackson Police Department.

They also used it at Union University following the February 2008 tornado that destroyed 70 percent of the campus dorms, one of the largest disasters to a higher educational facility. The vehicle handled all security operations for Union and the rest of the city that sustained damage. Further uses included it being the focal point and operations for security during Black Friday shopping at the local mall and other shops, Christmas parades, Relay for Life, BBQ Festival, and other events.

Clements stated, “Our vehicle is equipped with a camera mast to extend 25 feet and camera system with 360-degree surveillance capabilities and zoom-in features. It can be plugged in to run 9-1-1 Dispatch calls or other dispatch necessities. The satellite and dish setup enables communications when local assets are destroyed. The vehicle is very stable while driving and has given us years of service with low maintenance.”

 

Matthews Specialty Vehicles

www.msvehicles.com

Matthews Specialty Vehicles believes that while deploying manpower and equipment is very important, managing the situation properly and efficiently is still the most important aspect of any critical incident. Having everything available at the scene is invaluable, as well as a real advantage in inclement weather and dangerous environments.

Matthews has found that the capability of interoperable communications across frequencies is important when more than one agency or jurisdiction is involved, such as on 9/11. Redundant voice and data communications, including the use of satellite VoIP, cellular and land-line connectivity are also needed due to unforeseen circumstances.

Additionally, there should be access to satellite television for important weather and news coverage. A telescopic mast with camera allows for outer perimeter vehicle placement without the loss of incident monitoring. Tying this equipment into a video distribution system connected to all monitors, DVD or DVRs and patched into a SMART or other brand electronic copy-board will greatly improve after-action analysis and debriefing, and a comfortable and functional conference room assists with this.

Captain Michael Corsaro, Deputy Chief of Staff, West Virginia State Police, reported that Matthews not only met their requirements but already had GSA pricing so there was no bid process. Their 2011 45-foot vehicle has two dispatch consoles, an office accommodating six, and another conference room holding 10. The mast with satellite allows for both cellular and satellite communications and they can receive data either way. They have a light tower that easily illuminates crime scenes. For instance, the FBI used their vehicle as a mobile office for the Aliya Lunsford missing child investigation.

The mast camera can view crowd scenes from a height and display it on seven television screens. They recently used it for Bridge Day to scan the crowds to view the scene from one end to the other. An outside screen shows PowerPoints, Google Earth, documents for everyone to view, or for seeing local news and a “Smart Board” allows them to write on the screen. Network patches for laptops allow access to cellular or satellite systems.

Satellite radio communications are interoperable to communicate with different agencies. Due to West Virginia’s rural nature, the vehicle is used as a mobile office any time there is an incident requiring a large number of law enforcement officers.

Captain Corsaro stated, “We discovered we were behind the eight ball at the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster when we had no communication capacity for out of the area and no place for staff to meet. This pushed us to be more prepared and have a place for operational staff to work and provide adequate communications.” He stated that it is necessary to think in terms of size, and to obtain a vehicle that will meet your needs, although that does limit the places where it might travel. For instance, the vehicle needs to be somewhat level in order to use the tip-outs.

 

Pierce Manufacturing Inc.

www.piercemfg.com

Shane Braun, Pierce Manufacturing Inc., stated that their mobile command units are specifically designed for the end user with the best available technology. For instance, the WTI Sidewinder, H.264 standard-definition color video camera is built for mobile applications with Continuous 360-degree Pan and Tilt, 35X optical zoom lens with electronic image stabilization, 520 horizontal TV lines, Day/Night DSP camera technology, 0.5 lux to 0.01 lux in IR mode, and hydrophilic “self-cleaning glass window.

Braun stated, “The challenge is always how to integrate the latest technology into the apparatus while still looking at future needs and designing the system to allow the end users to upgrade and take advantage of technological advancement. Managing an apparatus that may take several years to develop, then an additional year to build, shows you how much technology changes.”

Braun pointed out that there needs to be balance between the technology being placed into the apparatus and the structural requirements providing long-term vehicle performance, and Fremont (Calif.) is a perfect example.

Gary Ashley, Fremont (Calif.) Fire Department reported that their police and fire departments combined resources for a state-of-the-art mobile command center, with modular components to be able to switch them out easily to individualize use by each department. Their vehicle was 80 percent funded by Homeland Security’s Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI), with the stipulation that the vehicle would be available to jurisdictions in the immediate Bay area, and due to that, all the components, such as radios and computers, had to be compatible.

The Fremont Police Department previously used a retrofitted RV, too outdated for new technology. New technology allows them to use satellite links for communication, meaning they are not limited geographically or by the failure of infrastructure.

Their long-range, high-resolution camera can send images to SWAT operators’ phones, news outlets, and to record images.

The 45-foot unit has a 33-foot-tall retractable mast with camera, 27 flat screen monitors inside, and a 42-inch flat screen on the outside used for briefings or public announcements. It is used about once a month, mostly by the police department, for SWAT team situations, concerts and events.

Ashley stated, “Our Pierce mobile command center was intended to be an “all risk” vehicle that could handle all major systems in case of a disaster. It is intended for use as a dispatch center in case our standard center is damaged and we are ready to test the capabilities of that system, overseen by ATT. ATT believes this is the first mobile command vehicle with portable 9-1-1 capabilities nationwide.”

Ashley further stated, “The collaborative effort in acquiring this mobile command center has fostered strong cooperation between the police and fire departments, and fostered an ‘era of cooperation’ I have never seen before.”

 

Sirchie Vehicle Division

www.sirchievehicles.com

Sirchie’s base packages include the floor, ceiling and wall finishes, counters, seating, storage cabinetry, and other interior structures. The 12V DC auxiliary power system has heavy-duty auxiliary batteries, power converters, fully automatic battery chargers, and emergency lighting. The 120V/240 AC system consists of both dockside and shore power inputs, and an on-board commercial/industrial generator.

Roof-mounted air conditioners, forced air furnaces, and 120V AC electric heaters handle climate control. Additional available features include 25- to 60-foot mast-mounted cameras, IP camera systems, commercial satellite communication systems, and police radio interoperability units.

Their 31-foot MCV550 series, a Ford F550 Cab/Chassis-based unit accommodating up to an 18-foot-long work area, is their most popular unit, and the available gasoline engine has a lower cost than larger diesel engine-based units. Sirchie’s Commercial Cutaway Models (MCV9000) and the MCV550 series are available with four-wheel drive, making them better suited to access remote areas.

Tony Saggiomo, Vice President/CEO, Sirchie Vehicle Division, stated, “It is our responsibility to insure that the vehicle is equipped with the physical structures/supports and power requirements for the proper operation of the equipment. Interoperability between all emergency management departments within their jurisdiction is of paramount importance.”

Agencies want a reliable vehicle that can comfortably accommodate a command staff for extended periods of time. Saggiomo commented, “If the foundation systems are not adequate, then no amount of equipment will make the vehicle functional. The importance of the power systems, climate control, and general creature comforts cannot be stressed enough. If these items are in place, then the vehicle can be equipped as needed to meet the individual in-field requirements of a department.”

Slideout rooms to expand the size of the operations areas are the current trend in mobile command vehicles. Sirchie monitors and tracks grant programs and also offers grant writing assistance. While smaller departments may not have the funding for a well-equipped mobile command vehicle, if they have a facility such as a nuclear plant in their jurisdiction, they may qualify for federal grant funding in order to be prepared for a critical incident.

Capt. Tom Pape, Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Police, said they use their mobile command vehicle at every crime scene. He stressed the advantages of having the vehicle available in hot or cold weather to make the work more comfortable for his staff and having all their tools available on scene. They also use it for special events, such as their annual Children’s Expo. He stated, “Sirchie makes a good truck. It’s virtually bulletproof. We have had it long enough to do upgrades and use it all the time.”

 

SIDEBAR:

The Massachusetts State Police

 

Tagline: Ready at the Scene with Mobile Command Centers

 

The Massachusetts State Police has been utilizing mobile command posts for over a quarter of a century. In doing so, they have gained invaluable knowledge into the needs of the Commonwealth. They have not only a very large, recently updated tractor trailer unit, but also two smaller trucks that can be moved quickly and are more accessible for limited access areas. Each Command Post has unique capabilities and is deployed depending on the type of mission, estimated time of deployment, and location.

 

Command Post 1 by Frontline Communications

www.frontlinecomm.com

Frontline Communications supplies broadcast, mobile command and communications, law enforcement and specialty vehicles to multiple industries. Frontline is ISO 9001 certified and designs and manufactures highly engineered mobile command centers in its Clearwater, Fla. facility.

The Massachusetts State Police took delivery of what is now their Command Post 1 (CP1) in June of 2004. The maiden mission of CP1 was the Democratic National Convention held in the city of Boston. The initial deployment lasted 14 days and was a great success. CP1 is a 53-foot trailer with four slideouts, two in the front communications room, and two in the rear command room, which allow for the trailer to expand to 16 feet wide. The command trailer is towed by a Freightliner tractor, which brings the combined length of both the tractor and trailer to 78 feet long.

The original design featured a front communications room, which housed six dispatch stations, and a rear command area capable of seating 12 comfortably. Forward of the communications room was a bathroom and the electronics room for the radios, VCRs, monitors and downlink receiver. The command trailer was constructed by AK Specialty Vehicles. (In 2006, AK Specialty Vehicles was acquired by Oshkosh Corp. and integrated into Frontline Communications in the Oshkosh Fire and Emergency Group.)

After the events surrounding the Marathon bombings, the Department realized that CP1 was in need of updating to keep up with the ever-changing advances in technology. With the support of the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, the MSP undertook the project of renovating CP1.

A complete technological update, as well as interior renovations, were done to the trailer. The bathroom was removed to make room for a new 35-foot mast, which holds a downlink antenna and a microwave point-to-point dish. The dispatch stations were removed and replaced with a large conference table similar to the rear command room, allowing for the area to be more user friendly.

A new IP-based radio system was installed to increase interoperability. The rear mast was updated to include a new high-definition mast camera with infrared, as well as an additional high-definition downlink antenna. The trailer was completely rewired to accept all the latest video formats now available. CP1 has a satellite phone system, two cellular telephone lines, fax, Internet and Intranet. Other features include a digital radio recorder, video recorder video frame synchronizer, satellite and off-air television, high-definition monitors, as well as a 100 KW on-board generator.

The renovations and updates were completed by Tri State Truck Center of Shrewsbury (Mass.), DG Marshall Associates of Webster (Mass.), and Little Bay Broadcast Services of Dover (N.H.). The newly renovated CP1 made its debut at the 2014 Boston Marathon.

Frontline Communications customers prefer three custom-built, small, medium and large platform vehicles: the Sprinter, the C-30X, and the C-40X-4. These can be configured with optional equipment and multiple slideouts to provide the optimal vehicle design in order to fulfill each vehicle’s mission. Frontline’s heavy-duty, completely smooth skinned bodies are designed to last over 20 years and can be remounted on a new chassis if required.

Frontline includes surface mount raceways, which provide easy access to wiring and cables for technology upgrades and complete detailed as-built drawings. Typical optional equipment includes custom compartments and slideout trays, pneumatic masts for lighting and camera systems, weapons lockers, emergency lighting, and custom paint and graphics.

Frontline’s systems design engineers develop communications systems based on each customer’s specific application and provide complete operator training. Video conferencing, interoperability, radio communications, satellite connectivity for voice, video and data, and HD and thermal cameras are typical installed technologies. A recently delivered vehicle even had radar installed for port surveillance. Their customers typically utilize
UASI (Urban Area Security Initiative) grants, which are one of the more common grants used to fund mobile command centers.

Steve Williamson, Frontline Director of Sales, stated, “Frontline has extensive resources and is happy to assist with writing specifications. When writing a specification, the agency should be as specific as possible with both the construction of the vehicle as well as the technology capabilities. Quality of construction, ergonomics, and technology all play an important role in the vehicle’s mission. Take the time to visit companies you may be considering to build your vehicle. A day or two investment to meet with a manufacturer is well worth the time, especially when considering the cost of the vehicle.”

 

Command Posts 2 and 3 by LDV

www.ldvusa.com

The Massachusetts State Police received their second mobile command vehicle (CP2) in 2008. This 40-foot straight truck was built by LDV and was originally built as a demonstration model for LDV, who customized it for the MSP. Its split setup features a small conference table in the front, and a dispatch area in the rear. Command Post 2 has similar capabilities as their CP1, but in a smaller package. It is able to be dispatched to the scene quickly, and capable of being maneuvered in smaller areas. Command Post 3 (their original CP1) is a 35-foot straight truck, purchased from LDV in 1990 and sent back to LDV in 2011 for refurbishment.

Massachusetts’ LDV mobile command centers feature satellite phone systems, Internet and Intranet, satellite and off-air television, cellular phone lines, and radio system interoperability with multiple dispatch stations. They have satellite helicopter video downlink, printer/DVD/VHS recorder/GPS, video photo printer, mast camera and security cameras. There is an on-board generator to assure power no matter where an incident is located. They have bathroom facilities, a weather station, and video conference capabilities.

LDV builds mobile command centers on any size trailer and all brands of motorized chassis with body styles covering cargo vans, pickups, SUV, walk-around, walk-in, bus, coach, and cab chassis box-style trucks, from 12 to 45 feet in length. Departments generally choose the type and size of platform based on their budgets and space requirements.

Budget is the primary driver for mobile command center model selection and the size must take into consideration the number of needed work stations, number of command staff, and space needed for storing special equipment. The height and width of the unit are important considerations if the vehicle needs to be maneuverable through narrow city streets. Smaller trucks are easier to store and maneuver, but the larger sizes allow for multiple slideouts.

LDV reported their exclusive Intel-I-Touch™ system integrates nearly all of the systems and equipment into a single intuitive control and monitoring system. LDV developed Intel-I-Touch™ to simplify vehicle deployment, reduce training time for users, and increase safety measures during deployment. Intel-I-Touch™ can also be integrated with a tablet, so users can employ additional portability and functionality. Users are able to control and monitor their command center with the automated control system.

Operations that can be controlled with Intel-I-Touch™ include the AC and DC power distribution, HVAC control, slide-out control, awning deployment, mast operations, interior and exterior lighting operation, and safety interlocks and warnings. This allows for ease of operation, reduced operator training, and quicker deployment and stow time, safer vehicle setup and diagnostics, error detection, and troubleshooting.

LDV suggested that clients contact them with their requirements for spec writing and allow them to collaborate on the specifications. When writing specs, departments often omit information necessary to ensure the vehicle and the technology operates the way they intend. When companies bid or quote on their specifications, departments can see huge variations in the price quotations, based on omitted content and sometimes even basic functionalities.

Most of LDV’s larger command vehicles include communication, radios, modulated audio and video, mast camera system, and the technology that makes it all work. The larger trucks are typically in the 40- to 45-foot range and can have anywhere from one to four slideout rooms and LDV elects to make the most of slideouts with a flat floor surface, rather than an above-floor slideout, providing a more ergonomic work environment.

Some of the technology included in the large command vehicles includes VoIP, satellite broadband, satellite TV, 4G LTE data connectivity, radio interoperability systems, microwave data receivers, microwave downlinks, and mesh networks. LDV tries to adhere to technology that is industry standard to ensure end user familiarity and improve the ability to integrate and grow systems for greater overall function of the command center.

 

Kathy Marks has been a child abuse investigator for more than 30 years. She teaches classes regarding domestic terrorism and is a previous contributor to LAW and ORDER. She can be reached at kathymarks53@aol.com.


Published in Law and Order, Jul 2014

Rating : Not Yet Rated


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