Mobile Command Centers Enable Emergency Response
Managing a crisis situation effectively and efficiently requires a high degree of communication and close coordination between partner agencies. To provide assistance in a timely manner, more and more communities are turning to mobile command centers as a solution. A mobile command center is a vehicle designed to respond to a situation at a moment’s notice. Often custom vans or busses 40 feet or more in size, the centers are equipped with all the latest technology critical for effectively managing an emergency – such as wireless connectivity, mobile computers, screens and monitors, surveillance cameras and communications equipment. Mobile command centers serve as a command post that can effectively run and manage response activities, including coordination between police and fire departments, EMS, homeland security and other partner agencies. These rolling command posts are often used in non-emergency situations as well, such as parades, marathons, street fairs and other large public events.
Mobile command centers allow responders to manage their resources and respond to emergency situations in a timely manner by enabling comprehensive field communications. They provide the high quality technology of a control room in a mobile environment allowing first responders to be effectively equipped on the road.
The benefits extend beyond the public safety world, as well. Insurers such as Farmers Insurance now use mobile command centers to respond to natural disasters such as hurricanes or tornadoes. The command centers provide field adjusters with a mobile home base to keep connected for efficient claims handling, without relying on local utilities or communications resources.
The most effective mobile command centers are equipped with a range of technology, comparable to what could be found in a station’s command room. Some important features found in these vehicles include:
- Mobile computers with broadband connectivity: Both laptops, for use on-board the vehicle, and tablets, for handheld use on the scene, will be vital to keep all personnel on the same page. Look for rugged models, which can be used even in rain or snow and can handle a drop or fall. Efficient communication and coordination also requires good connectivity. The mobile command center should be set up to provide high-speed mobile broadband access to personnel not only within the vehicle, but also in the surrounding area, so they can stay connected on the scene. Many command centers are equipped with mesh networks, which enable all the devices in the area to stay connected to each other and to the Internet wirelessly. This enables first responders to communicate with each other, to send and receive photos and video, and to access crucial information that could be necessary for responding to a crisis situation. Of course, it’s always good practice for first responders to use mobile computers with mobile broadband connectivity embedded in the device – this keeps them connected virtually anywhere via 4G LTE or 3G cellular networks.
- Surveillance technology: IP surveillance cameras with HD quality on the exterior of the vehicle can provide first responders, and those back at headquarters, with clear images of what is happening at the scene. These surveillance video feeds can be viewed on monitors in the vehicle, or on mobile devices such as tablets at the scene, or virtually anywhere else via a live feed over the Internet. This footage may serve as crucial video evidence down the road, so high quality images and tamper-proof, secure data storage are important considerations.
- Satellite and GPS technology: The command center should be equipped with access to satellite TV, which provides officials with access to news and weather coverage to make better informed decisions about how to approach the crisis situation ahead of them. By utilizing professional flat-screen displays, officers save valuable space while getting a clear quality picture. Some mobile command centers also use satellite links for data connectivity. If network coverage in your area is spotty, this may be worth considering. GPS tracking on vehicles also can be useful – Farmer’s Insurance uses GPS data from its mobile claims vehicles to route incoming calls from policyholders to the nearest field adjuster.
- Conference room: A functional conference space is important to allow personnel to interact and brief each other on priorities and next steps. Standard office technology such as a printer and projector should be equipped in all mobile command centers to provide officials with the tools necessary they would have available to them in their command center. Also consider collaboration tools such as an interactive display, which can make meetings on the scene more efficient by removing the need for paper and digitally saving all handwritten notes and drawings.
When designed correctly, mobile command centers can provide a comprehensive solution for governments, public safety agencies, healthcare providers and other community assets to work in an integrated fashion to engineer a better world for citizens.
Image courtesy of Highway Patrol Images.