County welcomes command center

Five years after initial plans were made, the Dumfries-Triangle Volunteer Fire Department has got its new 40-foot-long mobile command center that can be used for major fire or disaster incidents in Prince William County.

“This will increase our efficiency within the department and with other agencies,” said Prince William County Fire and Rescue Department Chief Mary Beth Michos.

Fire and rescue coverage in the Prince William area is provided by 12 volunteer departments, which receive funding from the county’s fire levy, as well as their own funding sources.

Officials said the center could come in handy for large multiple-alarm fires, hazardous material spills, explosions or extreme weather like an ice storm or tornadoes, which skipped over Prince William last year and landed in Maryland.

Dumfries-Triangle Battalion Chief Miles Young gave tours of the vehicle Tuesday to county supervisors and executive staff. It boasts a custom-designed, blue-carpeted, raised-roof cab built on a rugged fire truck chassis.

There are nine land-line phones and 11 cell phones with satellite phone backup capability, two remote-control cameras that are mounted on telescoping towers, flat-screen televisions with satellite cable, networked computers with Internet and wireless connections and an intercom for persons outside the vehicle.

“We’re prepared. That’s what this is all about,” said Supervisor Maureen S. Caddigan, R-Dumfries.

Young said the unit should be put into service by mid-February after training materials are completed, or sooner if county fire departments or police really needed it.

The front split cab contains the space for a driver and navigator in front of an L-shaped workstation for lead staff on site. The middle section has four additional work stations, a fax and copy machine, bathroom, recording equipment so important radio traffic can be quickly repeated, a microwave and coffee machine.

A rear conference room provides an isolated area for briefings with an electronic dry-erase board that can send its drawings to a printer.

Roll-up awnings on the side of the vehicle support a tent that can be heated or cooled for media or support staff, Young said.

An onboard generator provides power, or the vehicle can be hooked up to a utility pole by calling the electric company, as can the phone lines, he said.

The Dumfries-Triangle department is paying for the $650,000 vehicle through a lease-purchase arrangement with levy funding, as well as money saved up over the last five years, he said.

“This just proves we were ahead of the curve with Sept. 11,” he said.

More emergency equipment is still on the way for Prince William.

The county is getting $4.3 million for emergency preparedness as a result of Sept. 11 through the Department of Defense and Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill signed into law a year ago for:

— $1.8 million for a new county police command vehicle — police now use one bought used from Montgomery County, Md. — and hazardous protective clothing and gear;

— $1.8 million for a fire department vehicle that can detect chemical, biological and nuclear agents, protective clothing and mass decontamination units for the public;

— $180,000 hazardous materials truck to replace the fire department’s old converted beer truck;

— $400,000 for 300 extra sets of firefighting gear so that contaminated suits can be quickly replaced;

— $360,000 for rescue boat with firefighting capability; and

— Money for new phones and communications equipment for the county’s main command center at the McCoart Administration Center off Prince William Parkway, which has its own water and ele

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