Trailer provides mobile operations center for responders

By By Jody Norwood jnorwood@heraldledger.com

Lyon County has a new mobile operations center in case of a disaster.

Dale Hawkes, emergency management director, said his volunteers were tasked with turning a used trailer into a source of communications and operations for first responders. The project began with a $2,500 grant and a hail-damaged trailer.

"This trailer was actually designed to be an emergency operations trailer," Hawkes said. "It had damage to it because it was exposed to the weather."

Repairs were made and then improvements added.

A roof-mounted heating and air conditioning provides extra protection from the elements. Storage containers and bins allow for equipment to be stored away.

A 17-foot awning extends from the side to allow for an outside area protected from the elements.

There's even seating and a coffee pot to give responders a chance to rest and recharge.

"This is a trailer we could pull up to any scene," Hawkes said. "We could pull it out to [Land Between the Lakes] and have power, have shelter, a place for somebody to get in there and sleep."

One of the most important aspects, though, is the increased communications capacity.

The trailer is fitted with an external antenna and a portable radio system.

A 7,000 watt generator can recharge two deep cycle batteries powering the communications system.

"We came up with a radio system that is powered both by AC and this 12-volt DC system," Hawkes said. "We can pull up to a scene, plug our comms into the 12-volt system and be up and running instantly before we even open the trailer up.... Any time that generator is running, it's charging those batteries. Through experience, I'd say [the radio can operate] for about three days without firing up the generator."

Hawkes said once the trailer's generator is running, responders can recharge the communications system batteries.

Lyon County Judge Executive said the trailer will be a benefit for the county.

"We got the trailer through a grant given to the ambulance service," White said. "We got $2,500 from Marathon, and then whatever else we had to spend. They've done a great job."