Fort Meade's new mobile command post allows DES to operate on the move
May 24, 2012
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (May 24, 2012) -- Parked behind the Directorate of Emergency Services' headquarters is a white truck resembling a small tractor-trailer.
With the flick of a few switches, the vehicle becomes a fully functioning operations station complete with cameras, satellites, computers and radios that allows DES officers to work effectively from anywhere.
Nicknamed "The Beast," the new mobile command post is another tool for the DES, providing a self-containing communications center that can be set up at any location on the installation within 30 minutes.
"Fort Meade now has a new capability that will greatly assist the first responders and garrison leaders in protecting the people that live and work here," said Lt. Col. J. Darrell Sides, director of DES.
The DES picked up the approximately $300,000 unit in February after nearly six years of preparation.
Plans for the unit began in 2006 when the initial designs were drawn. But budget shortfalls prevented DES from acquiring the vehicle until the organization received the truck's chassis at no charge through Army channels.
The chassis, which is valued at more than $100,000, contained the engine, seats and frame of the mobile unit. After acquiring the skeleton of the machine, the vehicle was outfitted with the trailer and all the communications equipment for about $200,000.
The self-generating law enforcement communications center provides officers with telephone and computer capabilities from any location. On the exterior of the vehicle are two satellites and a 200-times zoom camera perched on a 30-foot mast.
Satellites allow officers in the vehicle to receive news feeds, which Deputy Chief of Police Byron Frank said can be helpful because sometimes, news helicopters can get better angles of a scene than DES can. The camera allows operators to assess the situation from inside the vehicle with a joystick system that controls the camera.
The camera was useful when the mobile command post was set up outside the Pavilion for the Massing of the Colors ceremony on May 6 featuring Gov. Martin O'Malley.
"The police supervisor was using the 30-foot camera mast to keep an overarching view of the entire area to include parking lots and observing the governor's motorcade," Sides said. "Had there been any suspicious activity, this eye-in-the-sky would have allowed that supervisor to guide the patrol officers on the ground to the threat."
A spacious interior includes two work stations with telephones, computers and radios; a separated conference room; televisions; heating and air conditioning systems; and a bathroom.
Since the unit is self-containing and self-powering, the vehicle can be parked anywhere and be fully functional with the help of its generators.
"As long as we have fuel in the main fuel tanks, it'll run," Frank said.
Prior to obtaining the unit, officers used a converted Federal Emergency Management Agency trailer on loan from the FBI or the trunk of a supervisor's vehicle. With the unit, officers can now operate at the scene without having to cope with weather.
"It's going to give us the capabilities for long-term incidents that we don't have to work in the elements," Frank said. "We can operate under all circumstances. If it's 100 degrees outside we can operate, if it's 20 below we can operate. It's just like working in a building."
DES plans on using the unit when incidents exceed two hours, such as hostage situations or HAZMAT spills. It can also be used as a back-up 911 call center.
"Should our 911 Dispatch Center be knocked offline, like in a tornado or bomb threat, this vehicle would quickly become our new mobile 911 center," Sides said. "That is a huge capability that we hope we never need, but will potentially save lives should we have to employ the vehicle in that capacity."