Tyler Fire Department uses Mobile Communications Unit to respond to needs during times of crisis

Published on Thursday, 20 April 2017 16:31 - Written by AUGUSTA ROBINSON, augustarobinson@tylerpaper.com

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It’s a vehicle that many may never hope to see but could find comfort from its presence during a time of crisis.

The Tyler Fire Department’s Mobile Communications Unit was deployed to Van in May 2015 after an EF-3 tornado struck the town. It was utilized again during the search for 10-year-old Kayla Gomez-Orozco.

The 38-foot trailer features seven computers, 12 radios, Wi-Fi and a variety of other technology designed to help first responders connect and communicate during disasters and other moments of crisis.

On Thursday, Tyler firefighters tested the unit’s capabilities with 10 other communications units from across the East Texas region.

“When something does happen, we don’t want to be doing this,” said Michael Frost, assistant Tyler fire chief. “We check everything so it’s ready to go on a moment’s notice.”

The purpose was to test the units’ interoperability - the ability of computer systems or software to exchange and make use of information.

“When people have different kinds of radios that don’t link together, this makes them link together,” said Jeff Hudgens, Tyler fire captain, in reference to technology in the unit.

Throughout Thursday, the unit made contact via radio with other units in Smith County and cities such as Rockwall, Texarkana and more. The tests and training were part of a four-day exercise Tyler firefighters took part in that included two days of classes in Mount Pleasant. The training will conclude Friday with participants reviewing their findings from Thursday and debriefing. 

The Tyler Fire Department’s Mobile Communications Unit is housed at Fire Station 5.

“Hopefully we don’t need it but it is very useful,” Hudgens said. “The alternative would be keeping a closet of 45 radios.”