By Ms. Elizabeth M Lockyear (USACE)April 26, 2019
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- The storm has passed. The water has receded. The wind has calmed. Now the emergency response workers start coming in. However, to do their jobs effectively, they need basic services, such as communication abilities, which may have been wiped out or significantly impacted by the disaster.
This type of situation calls for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer's Deployable Tactical Operations System. DTOS is a combination of teams and equipment put together to provide critical communications in the event of significant man-made or natural disasters in the United States.
One key DTOS asset is the Emergency Command and Control Vehicle. Basically, the ECCV is a 47-foot box truck that can deploy to an affected area and provide communications and workspace for up to 11 personnel. The ECCV is configured to support multiple response teams from within USACE, including the Power, Debris Removal, and Blue Roof teams, allowing them communication access and work space so they can focus on the response and recovery efforts. ECCVs have deployed to numerous disasters including flood fights, Superstorm Sandy, hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Katrina, and Michael, as well as in support of the power restoration mission in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
However, it's not just a simple "jump in the vehicle and drive to the disaster." Being ready to deploy is a continual process that involves advanced preparation. The first action is monthly checks on the equipment to ensure that, when called upon to deploy, everything is in working order.
Additionally, there are regular exercises which allow for more advanced training. One recent exercise was held at the District's Trinidad Lake in southern Colorado April 15-19, 2019. Five ECCVs and about 25 staff from around the country set up at the lake's project office for an exercise to assess the readiness of the ECCVs and the DTOS support teams.
The exercise at Trinidad went beyond the monthly maintenance by bringing together several of the two-person deployment teams and the DTOS management staff located in Mobile District. The management staff manages the operation, maintenance, and deployment of DTOS assets and deployed team members. The Trinidad exercise allowed these two groups to go through the regular maintenance procedures and the set up and demobilization procedures, letting both see what works well, what needs improvement, and to identify best practices that can be applied across all the ECCV units. The exercise also allowed the deployment teams the opportunity to "simulate" the drive-time to an event.
Trinidad was chosen because it is "a 'central' point for the five different ECCV's and 24 associated personnel that came from states in the South and along the West Coast," said Kim Falen, Trinidad Project Office manager.
The ECCVs currently in use are the second-generation in terms of technology and equipment. They have onboard radio, interagency voice interoperability, and satellite and cellular capabilities that can deliver both voice and data communications to the USACE network or beyond. It is totally self-contained for up to 72 continuous hours with onboard fuel before additional fuel or alternative shore power is required. In addition, it offers several benefits over the now-retired first-generation model, including a much reduced set up and demobilization time. The first-generation ECCV took about two hours to set up and demobilize, and that is if everything went well. It also required three people. The newer ECCVs can be set up in about 20 minutes and only requires two people.
"After seeing the West Coast DTOS team in action, not only will it bring me peace of mind during a national emergency knowing they are the very best in their field, but it will also be a tremendous source of pride working for the same agency since they embody what the Corps is known for - trustworthiness, efficiency, and professionalism," Falen said. She also said that Trinidad Lake will be on their radar for next year's exercise "as they enjoyed the hospitality of the project office and welcoming atmosphere of the local community."
There are currently 15 ECCVs located in USACE districts across the continental U.S. including Portland, Los Angeles, Ft. Worth, Sacramento, and Mobile districts.