Fire department unveils new command trailer

Published on Tuesday, 5 August 2014 23:01 - Written by KELLY GOOCH kgooch@tylerpaper.com

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From the inside out, the Tyler Fire Department’s new communications/command trailer is equipped to help responders if an emergency situation should occur.

On the front is a TV screen, located under an awning. Stepping into the trailer, there are multiple work stations, as well as a break area, radios and digital clocks, among other things. A conference/command area sits in the back of the trailer.

It is the first such trailer for the fire department and was officially unveiled Tuesday.

“Obviously it’s a brand new platform for us. We’re still learning. But I think we can be real proud of what we have as an asset here to the city of Tyler. I think it just goes to show that the city of Tyler is a forward-thinking operation and that we’re here to protect and serve our citizens of Tyler whatever it takes,” Assistant Fire Chief David Schlottach said.

Fire Chief Tim Johnson said the $301,925 trailer was paid for with 2012 and 2013 Homeland Security Grant funds and is a state asset that was assigned to the city.

Accompanying the trailer on Tuesday was a tow vehicle. Johnson said the city’s Vehicle Services Department re-configured a retired dump truck for towing the communications/command trailer.

He said the trailer, which will be housed and maintained at Tyler Fire Station No. 5 on South Bennett Avenue, provides state of the art communications capabilities to coordinate disaster response and recovery, but also may be used for coordination and control of large events. For instance, it was used last month during the fireworks show at Lindsey Park and will go to the upcoming firefighters combat challenge.

The 38-foot-long, custom built trailer features a 48-foot mast; a night vision camera on the mast; a meter data/telephone satellite dish; a satellite dish for news/weather feeds; a diesel generator; and a mobile weather station, according to information from the fire department.

Also among the features is exterior work area lighting; radio systems for 700 MHz, 800 MHz, UHF, VHF, aircraft; VOiP telephone via satellite connection or air card; Wi-Fi hotspot capabilities; and the ability to connect disparate radio systems, according to the information.

Additionally, there are multiple security cameras.

“Ideally if we’re working an incident (and) you’re walking up (to the trailer), we’re going to have you on camera,” Assistant Fire Chief James Pike said.

In the back of the trailer is a conference/command area complete with a table, chairs and a Smart TV. There also is plenty of whiteboard space.

Schlottach said if something happened to the police 911 dispatch, dispatchers could use the trailer as a dispatch center.

He said it takes 12 to 15 minutes to get the trailer set up and operational. For last month’s festivities at Lindsey Park, the trailer was set up at 10 a.m. and shut down at midnight.

There also could be times when the city is asked to deploy the communications/command trailer outside of Tyler and Smith County, he said. 

The city has had the trailer for about a month.

Fire Captain Jeff Hudgens said bigger incidents may involve multiple jurisdictions and multiple agencies, so the trailer gives the people coordinating all of that a base of operations for planning.

And Hudgens said the area outside under the awning can be used to brief incoming personnel without compromising the integrity of what’s happening inside the trailer as far as communications.

“We can maintain our security and our discipline within this unit and still have an area to provide any kind of information they need outside,” Hudgens said.

When it comes to the construction of the trailer, Hudgens said it was built from the ground up.

“It’s a very solid purpose-built unit for emergency services and response,” he said.