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May 25, 2002

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Published May 25 in the Kentucky Standard

Nelson emergency management unveils mobile command unit

By STACEY S. MANNING
The Kentucky Standard

BARDSTOWN � Nelson County Emergency Management Agency publicly unveiled its new mobile command unit for the first time Wednesday at the Nelson County EMS Station.

The unit, which is designed to be a communications center that can go anywhere in the county in a moment�s notice, is fashioned inside an ambulance that was donated to NCEMA by the Louisville Fire Department.

NCEMA has been working toward a mobile command unit, which can be dispatched for emergencies or natural disasters, for 18-20 months, John Amshoff, resource director of NCEMA said.

The unit, which will be a central communications facility for emergencies, can communicate with emergency personnel throughout Nelson and surrounding counties, Amshoff said.

�It brings all different agencies together so we are all reading off the same page,� he said.

The unit is self-contained and has an onboard generator that can power it and its equipment.

There are six types of radios inside � from ham radios to UHF and VHF units.

Equipment inside will also allow NCEMA to communicate directly on the state emergency management channel out of Frankfort.

The unit is equipped to set off the county�s emergency warning sirens and can dispatch fire departments throughout the county.

If something were to happen to the county�s emergency dispatching operations, the unit can be used as a backup to dispatch, Amshoff said.

�Communication in here is definitely top notch,� he said.

Amshoff said the mobile command unit is not designed to take over from in-charge agencies at accidents or disasters, but is available to assist them.

�We�re here to assist in management skills,� he said.

The unit puts Nelson County �on the map as far as disaster preparedness goes,� Amshoff said.

Outside of the larger metropolitan counties likes Jefferson and Fayette, Nelson County is one of a handful of rural counties to have this type of equipment and preparedness, he said.

Nelson Fiscal Court was a key supporter for NCEMA to get the unit, Amshoff said. Fiscal Court gave NCEMA about $18,000 for equipment for the unit.

�It serves every citizen in the county. Everyone benefits from this,� he said.

An onboard television with VCR will allow those inside to view news broadcasts from Louisville, Lexington and southern Indiana. External cameras mounted on top of the center will allow those inside to survey the area around them.

A laptop computer and printer are inside the unit, as well as an Environmental Protection Agency system that can be used in hazardous materials situations.

Equipment inside will also detect wind speed and direction. A Global Positioning Unit on board can help emergency crews pinpoint the exact location of the unit no matter where it is set up.

Colored vests, which can be used to indicate a chain of command while on scene, as well as a command legend are inside the unit.

The unit is filled with literature about emergency management operations and has laminated county maps that can be written on with dry-erase markers.

Although the command center is inside an ambulance, Amshoff said NCEMA worked to make sure the unit looks different from other emergency vehicles in the county.

Large, green reflective letters make the unit visible 24 hours a day, he said.

�It stands out like a sore thumb. We wanted a different style to signify we are a separate entity,� he said.

Although NCEMA is made up strictly of volunteers, Amshoff said there is always someone on the team ready to respond with the unit.

In the coming days and weeks, NCEMA will train local emergency personnel about the unit.

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