Bay to buy mobile command center for large-scale emergency response

If 200 law enforcement responders and emergency personnel were to converge on the site of a school shooting tomorrow, a major coordinated response effort would be needed.

To foster that coordination, the Bay County government and sheriff’s office are teaming together to buy and staff a new mobile command center that they hope will increase efficiency. The mobile center will be deployed to the scene of incidents requiring a coordinated response by multiple agencies.

Bay County is spending $312,500 from fire impact fees, which is being matched by BCSO, to pay for the unit, which is described as a “mobile Emergency Operations Center.”

Sheriff Tommy Ford said the need for the vehicle was highlighted by the May 22 shooting in which multiple law-enforcement agencies responded to a suspect who had barricaded himself into the Briarwood apartment complex. Walton County deputies, Panama City police, BCSO and county emergency medical services responded to the incident. The suspect ultimately was found dead after a shootout with officers.

Ford said the mobile command apparatus could be used in many situations that require a coordinated response, such as an active shooter, mass casualty event, large fire, natural disaster, chemical leak or even large-scale tourism events such as the IRONMAN Florida triathlon or Gulf Coast Jam.

Ford said the mobile command center is being custom designed and built on a truck frame, and it could take up to a year before it’s ready to go out in the field.

“This will be a professional command post built for public safety incidents,” he said, pointing out that the center will have computers and dispatch systems as well as a conference room area with multi-media computer capabilities.

Ford said a management team of eight to 10 people is being chosen as part of the mobile response effort.

“We’ll make sure they have training and we’ll have them work together as a team to develop protocols and fill different roles and responsibilities,” he said.

Mark Bowen, Bay County chief of emergency services, said the mobile command center is needed for incidents that linger on and become more complex.

“It is not going to be a hardened vehicle,” he said. “It’s not some sort of tactical (vehicle) that is bullet-proof. It is made so that as an incident’s complexity begins to broaden and we have more and more first responders being brought in — whether it’s an active shooter or a train derailment, just pick your calamity — it is a way for us to put the emergency management out into the field.”

Bowen said the county wants first responders to be able to concentrate on their response roles.

“All these other things come into play depending on the complexity of the event,” he said. “I mean, it’s everything from porta-potties to temporary morgues depending on the complexity of the event. We don’t want our first responders and first response agencies to be overwhelmed with all of these things that we do, that we plan for on a pretty much daily basis at the EOC. Basically, all it is is a mobile conference room and it has a lot of communications capacity — satellite, very secure and dependable communications capability.”

Source:  Panama City News Herald


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