Council members approve state grant, portable command center

Published on Wednesday, 23 October 2013 23:37 - Written by By Dayna Worchel

If a disaster strikes in northeast Texas, the Tyler Fire Department will be ready to offer help with a new portable command center, complete with radio and satellite communications and the ability to house six communication work stations.

The City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved the acceptance of a $100,925 state grant funded — 100 percent from the State Homeland Security program — for the center to include a voice data connection with other agencies and a radio mast to improve radio communications.

In October 2012, the council approved the first state 100 percent funded grant for over $201,000 for the design, construction and equipping of the command trailer. Both grants are designed to prevent, protect against and respond to acts of terrorism and other catastrophic events, according to information received from the city.

“When the trailer is completed, it will be housed at one of our fire stations, and all of the crew members at that station will be given extensive training in use of the systems included in the trailer,” Tyler Assistant Fire Chief David Schlottach said. He said he has been heavily involved in the design of the trailer. Because the trailer is funded through the state grant as a regional asset, it will mirror a similar command center in the Longview Fire Department.

“Our idea is that even when one of the two communications platforms is dispatched on a statewide event, the other platform is still available for local or regional events,” Schlottach said.

The trailer the Tyler Fire Department is designing will have one slide-out and six communications positions. The trailer will be equipped with satellite connectivity for VOiP telephone capability, data exchange with other agencies and the State Operations Center, video conferencing capabilities, and radios covering a wide range of frequencies, Schlottach said. Each communications workstation will be equipped with a radio, computer, and VOiP telephone, he said.

“In the rear portion of the trailer will be a conference center where command staff can meet to plan actions and activities,” Schlottach said. On the exterior of the trailer will be an extendable 42-foot mast with infrared camera and radio antennas.

The trailer will be included with the capability to create its own WiFi hotspot with connectivity to the internet via the satellite dish, Schlottach said. The trailer will also have the capability of becoming a mobile command center with briefing capabilities on the exterior of the trailer. Schlottach said he hopes to have it up and running by April 1.

In other news, Council members recognized a group of Tyler firefighters, which took third place in the U.S. at the Brookshire’s Firefighters Combat Challenge here on Oct. 4 and 5. The Tyler firefighters competed against 26 teams from all over the country. The firefighters who competed were: Brian Boyd, Jeremy Driver, Jeff Hudgens, Patrick Mayo and Jay McClung.

Shari Rickman, general manager of the Tyler Convention and Visitor’s Bureau called it a “fun and rewarding” event, and cited the economic benefit to the city. “The estimated economic impact to the city was $110,000 and 200 hotel rooms were occupied,” she said. There were 2,100 attendees, 150 volunteers, and ten vendors at the event this year, Ms. Rickman said.