Road Warriors

Mobility gives law enforcement command and control on scene


Whether responding to a fireworks display, university football game, local courthouse bomb threat or statewide missing child search, mobile command centers are confidently prepared for any type of combat.

From small agencies to the state patrol, officers nationwide are finding the different sizes of these road warriors can compliment an agency just as unique as the centers can be built.

Campus command
Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, is known for its academic excellence, as well as the fall season and highly anticipated Big Ten football games.

The nearly 38,000 student population, in addition to 15,000 faculty and staff members, is a small city in its own right. The university's emergency services division — police, fire and EMS — work collaboratively to ensure the safety of this very transient population.

In 2004, the university put into service a 2005 Cascade travel trailer, donated by Coachmen Recreational Vehicle Co. The trailer is 32 feet long and replaces a 1976 Travco RV self-contained unit which had seen its final days.

"We chose the trailer version in recognition we had plenty of vehicles in our fleet that could pull it," says Carol Shelby, senior director of environmental health and public safety at Purdue.

Shelby decided on a standard unit, customizing it to fit the university's needs. The bed came out and in went portable communications. "We tricked it out the way that would work with us," she says.

The new unit is estimated at $23,470, and includes, in addition to communication equipment, a restroom, kitchenette and seating area with conference table. It also provides ample storage space.

"It's not too big, but it's not too small," says Capt. John Cox, special services division, Purdue University Police Department. "It can get into most areas, yet is large enough to have six or eight people in it."

The hot summers and bitter cold, Midwest winters in Indiana are unpredictable. This unit has provided, in many cases, a place for emergency personnel to cool down or warm up.

The recent case of a missing student was the perfect opportunity to see the Purdue command center at work. "Because the search efforts were 3 or 4 hours long, we pulled it out for that," says Cox. "We set it up next to the Red Cross folks that came in. We used the command center as a collection area for volunteers, and if somebody was real cold, we could get them out of the weather."

A district-wide drill on January 27 of this year included the participation of nine counties. "We took our mobile command center there, not to act as a communications center, but a place for people to rest," says Shelby. "We had play victims lying on the ground and it was particularly cold. Our center is really more a gathering spot for information and a comfort station to take on scene."

Football fanatics
Typically 80+ police officers are busy at work during a Purdue Boilermakers home football game, which draws in excess of 60,000 fans to Ross-Ade Stadium. Those fans arrive in thousands of cars that can cause traffic nightmares.

"When you get that many people crammed into an area, it's sometimes difficult to get emergency vehicles to a specific area," says Cox.

Cox notes the command center, decorated with the police and fire departments' shields, is a very visual presence during community events. "It's identified on the outside as a command center and is a beacon if you need help," says Cox.

During a home game, the center acts as backup command. The stadium itself houses a communications center for game-day activities.

The mobile center acts as a staging area for the university ambulance, as well as a respite site for emergency personnel, which can total 270 medics, firefighters and police from surrounding counties, the state police and Purdue.

Maryland motor coach
In a city 12 miles from the nation's capital, the Rockville (Maryland) Police Department's needs are determined by its politically significant location. In addition to its more-than-fair-share of bomb threats and suspicious package calls, the area is home to many foreign diplomats and American government leaders.

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