County gets new EOC mobile command center

Published 12:04 am Sunday, July 22, 2007

Pearl River County’s Emergency Management unveiled their new emergency mobile command center capable of handling any kind of situation, not just hurricanes.

Emergency Management Director Bobby Strahan said the mobile command center has a satellite dish that makes the center capable of Internet, voice over IP and fax and copy. The center is also capable of phone, amateur radio, high and low band radio and has radios donated from surrounding counties departments so they can communicate easily. A computer system also give the station the ability to access any available communication band.

“I thinks it’s going to be good interoperability command center when we can communicate with folks,” Strahan said.

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Packed with all kinds of supplies such as extension cords, saws, lights, blankets, search and rescue supplies and Hazmat clean up gear and non sparking tools, this command center will be able to handle any emergency. Also on board are special inflatable bags capable of lifting 117 tons about 31 inches, useful in situations such as a tipped over semi truck where a person may be trapped underneath.

While the command center sprouted from events post Hurricane Katrina emergency situations can arise from more than just hurricanes. Sheriff Joe Stuart said the interstate and railroad system could present dangers situations where the command center would be useful.

Not only will the command center be used in Pearl River County emergencies but if situations arise in surrounding areas then this county can assist other areas, Stuart said. Strahan said there are flat bed trucks that could follow along to carry supplies, such as food and water, along for the trip.

“When we get there we don’t want to be a burden,” Strahan said. “Our people will be able to take care of our selves.”

“We certainly will not forget any of those who helped us (after the storm) so we will lend a helping hand,” Stuart said.

Cost of the command center totaled about $26,000. To purchase a comparable command center would cost about $200,000, Strahan said. Pearl River County’s command center was cheap due to Strahan and volunteers conducting most of the work to convert the trailer into the center. The Sheriff’s department and the board of supervisors each funded half of the cost of the command center, Stuart said.

“We’re just proud to be in partnership with Emergency Management,” Stuart said.

This new command center is much more accommodative of the needs for long standing emergencies. After Hurricane Katrina the county used a much smaller command center, where they were in close quarters for seven weeks, Stuart said.

“We spent may hours close quartered in there,” County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin said.

Stuart said the tractor truck which tows the command center came from a traffic stop that netted close to $1.5 million in suspected drug money. The county was able to keep about $821,000 which was put in to general funds for the department. Stuart said he has utilized those funds in most the cost effective manner to make it last for at least four years.

Availability of the new command center opens up the old command center for Sheriff’s Department crime investigations or other such uses, Lumpkin said.