Grant will help upgrade mobile command center

CALCUTTA — The mobile incident command center used by the Columbiana County Emergency Management Agency is getting an upgrade.

EMA officials recently presented a $2,000 grant to the Calcutta Volunteer Fire Department with the money earmarked toward the mobile unit, which includes new digital radios and a television monitor along with other necessary functions needed for the command center’s services.

The incident command center, which has been in use the past five years and is stored near the Calcutta station, serves as a central location for safety forces to meet with officials and receive instructions on a variety of calls, ranging from a search for a lost or missing individual to a major house fire and other life-threatening situations.

“We have a mutual aid agreement with all the emergency services in the county, so everyone in the county is able to use this trailer for a major incident,” Calcutta firefighter Randy Schneider said. “We have an agreement with everyone that if they need this, say there’s a major fire, like the Leetonia fire where there were 30 departments there, we need an incident command trailer to run operations out there because you have 30 departments. You need to keep track of where everyone’s going, what they’re doing, who’s next coming in and keep having accountability for everyone’s safety.”

The incident command trailer is available for all safety services, whether police or fire in the county, and can be used for all situations.

“That’s going to be at anybody’s dispersal, whether it’s (highway patrol), fire departments, what have you,” Calcutta fire chief Dave McCoy said. “Something simple, or something large scale.”

“This is a huge asset for whatever type of incident that we have going on, whether it’s a large fire, we just took it to the fire in Leetonia, it was used as the incident command post,” county EMA director Peggy Clark said. “We can assist with communications. We can have a radio operator stationed in here so that when we have multiple or different departments responding that don’t have like communications, they can help with interoperability issues, so it’s a really big asset to have.”

The facility’s upgrades include an upgrade from analog radios to digital, which most fire departments, including Calcutta, are now using. There’s also a new television monitor, which safety forces can plug in tablets and upload maps or other important information to the dispatching staff.

Also included was a new fire extinguisher and an awning to help keep officers and firefighters out of any inclement weather, which Schneider said was an idea from McCoy.

“You have 30 guys, and you’re trying to explain to them ‘OK, you need to go here, you need to go here, I want your team to go here, assess this’. . . but you can’t have them all standing out in the rain and snow and freezing while you’re trying to explain it to them because obviously you’re not going to get somebody to pay attention,” Schneider said.

In addition to the awning on the outside of the trailer, a white board will also be utilized to outline plans for operations on that call.

Schneider said he and McCoy have worked for the past year to try for grants for the necessary upgrades, and have worked with both Clark and county EMA deputy director Brian Rutledge throughout the time.

“We applied for a grant through Homeland Security,” Clark said. “This trailer was initially purchased with Homeland Security money, and we worked with the fire department to sort of serve as a partner with us, so they have much more availability of staffing than the EMA office does.

“So if this is needed in anywhere in the county, this department can be toned out and they’ll actually move the trailer to wherever an incident might be throughout the county.”

Schneider said all upgrades should be completed by the end of November.