Following problems that ensued during a 2017 fire at the Procter & Gamble warehouse in Meshoppen Township, Wyoming County 911 received letters requesting a resource to improve emergency operations.
The solution was a mobile 911 command center.
Last Tuesday, (May 7) representatives of the county’s 911 center gathered at the Wyoming County EMA building to unveil “Command 66,” a 2019 Chevy Suburban equipped with everything needed for a remote 911 center.
With the help of the county commissioners, Wyoming County 911 purchased the vehicle in mid-2018 from Sherwood Chevrolet in Tunkhannock.
Commissioner Tom Henry, who visited the EMA building Tuesday afternoon along with Commissioners Judy Mead and Michael Stabinsky, said the vehicle was purchased through impact fees.
Since Wyoming County 911 made updates to the vehicle on its own with the help of the company AMP Global Strategies, Henry said the county saved around $150,000.
Looking back at the P&G fire, Henry said the situation became “chaotic,” as radios didn’t work inside the building.
“With this command center, we’re able to bring the power to anywhere, so that our radios and everything will be able to work remotely,” he said. “We didn’t have the capabilities of talking to people in there, so we were afraid the fire would spread and people could have lost their lives.”
If the mobile command center had been available in 2017, 911 Director Jeff Porter said the situation could have played out differently.
“The incident commanders were struggling keeping track of their units inside the building,” he reflected. “This would have been a point of contact for that incident commander to be able to monitor all the channels that they were using and have live time updates of the apparatuses that were in route to assist with that.”
The vehicle includes four mobile radios equipped with multiple frequencies, a mobile CAD, a personnel accountability board and a drone for a bird’s eye view of incidents, which three 911 employees have received training on so far.
“The screen’s a smart TV. It displays the local radar for weather events and also hooks to the controller of our drone,” Porter said. “The drone’s equipped with flare imaging, so anything that we can see in that, the bystanders and incident commanders operating on that call can monitor it at the same time.”
While the mobile command center has just recently been introduced to the public, Porter said it has been utilized several times already.
This includes searches for a homicide victim in Falls, working with state police and state parole to locate an escapee in Nicholson and taking photographs for the reconstruction of fatal or near fatal crashes with the local and state police.
The smaller size of Wyoming County’s mobile center compared to those in other counties is also an asset.
“A lot of our surrounding counties have trailers they have to pull,” Porter said. “Lackawanna County has a large bus and we went for a smaller footprint, four-wheel drive, that we can get into the rural areas of Wyoming County.”
Gene Dziak, director of Wyoming County EMA, said the mobile center is helpful not only for emergency management, but for local emergency services, too.
“To have something like this and go out on a big event in the county, it’s vital. We’ve worked without something like this for the longest time, but what it’s going to give us is that vehicle is on scene,” Dziak said. “We have the incident in front of us. We’re able to document everything to the command vehicle.”