"I think ours is a nice niche because we can roll it out on smaller situations, questionable incidents where others don't want to pull out all their resources, such as the large vehicles," says Rappoport.
State police = self-contained
When it's time, however, to roll out the big wheels, the state police are ready. As a support mechanism for every agency, whether city, another state organization or federal government, the Massachusetts State Police (MSP) are a resource not to be overlooked — neither is its mobile command center, delivered in late June 2004.
"Our command post is a very robust platform," says Sgt. Barry Domingos, part of the incident management team with the MSP, "but it works out very, very well in that function. Our job is just support; that's it."
The state police's 53-foot, $1.5 million, AK Specialty Vehicles, now known as Oshkosh Specialty Vehicles, trailer is outfitted with top-of-the-line communications capabilities, six individual communications modules, 100,000 watts of generator power, redundant power systems, 15 workstations with Internet and Intranet, a 65-square-foot equipment room, 20-foot light tower with surveillance capabilities, and conference table for 12 people, just to name a few.
This amount of power is a mobile command dream, but it's also a responsibility that must not be taken lightly. Domingos teaches incident command nationwide and can testify to the importance, as well as necessity, of monitoring the use of mobile command centers.
"Ninety-five percent of the time when we deal with incidents, they pretty much only require first responders and a supervisor," he says. "You don't need much more than that. In that 5 percent when you need to roll out the command post, you better be able to articulate a good reason for bringing it."
There are three things Domingos says a unit must be in order to work properly. First, it must be mobile. "We have to be able to get to a location," he says. "Nine times out of 10 we don't have a hardened location at whatever place we happen to be geographically."
Second, the unit must be self-contained. If response is required in a remote area, where cell signals are unavailable, telephone lines don't reach and power is non-existent, it's essential the unit is able to be used on its own accord. And third, it must be functional. There must be the necessary equipment and other resources on board to make the center an asset rather than hindrance.
The MSP takes extra care in ensuring the functionality of its command post. Only a small number of officers are qualified to drive it, and others are familiar with the setup of the center upon arrival. An additional two to three officers are charged with around-the-clock maintenance at a scene. In a department with 2,500 sworn officers, it's necessary to have just a few experts.
The same way a human asset must be justified, so must an equipment resource, especially one taxpayers have a say in. Maintaining the look, and more importantly, the functional capabilities, of a mobile command center are essential to the cost effectiveness of the unit.
Domingos recognizes that somebody at some point has paid the bill for this enormous asset. He stresses the respect of the unit is a reflection on the respect of the community an agency serves. "If we don't take care of it, not only have we wasted someone's money, but when we get on scene, we're ineffective," he says. The number of deployments, he explains, is irrelevant to the quality of them.
At the ballpark and on the road
Boston is known for its tea party of the late 1700s, the infamous "Cheers" bar, annual Boston Marathon and of course, Fenway Park's Red Sox tradition. When Bostonians come out to play, and all their friends too, the MSP is in full force making sure nothing spins out of control.
In April, more than 20,000 runners as well as millions of fans will take to the streets of Boston for the 111th annual marathon, the world's oldest.
The New England Patriots have been on a winning streak the last few years and the team's hometown of Boston has seen its fair share of Super Bowl parades.