MOORE — City officials who congregated outside of Moore city hall Monday evening came to see something they agree is good to have but hopefully never needed.
Moore Emergency Management Department was there before the city council meeting to display its new Emergency Command Vehicle, a 40-foot Freightliner fitted with all the bells and whistles needed to coordinate emergency response. It had been under construction since June and was largely designed — with input from local officials and emergency response experts — by Director of Emergency Management Gayland Kitch.
"Flexible and lots of room," is how Kitch described what he was looking for. The vehicle includes three slide-outs, can be divided for separate operations to take place simultaneously but uninterrupted, and can fit a large conference table for big-picture planning.
"It allows us lots of places to work in several different work stations," Kitch said in a City of Moore promotional video. "The capabilities are just fantastic."
Money for the vehicle was initially made available in a 2006 bond issue approved by Moore voters. However, the city opted to prioritize the building and upgrading two fire stations, and Kitch admitted tornadoes over the years also pushed plans back.
The new command center came into operation in late February, Kitch said, just in time for a new storm season. But weather disaster response isn't the vehicle's only mission.
Sgt. David Dickinson, part of the Moore Police Department's Community Services Unit, talked about the command vehicle's use for a SWAT team response or hostage negotiation. For instance, while SWAT prepared for its mission in one side, negotiators and other officials could continue their work on the other side.
The command vehicle could also be used during Moore Fire Department response to major incidents.
It includes an operations area and a communications area for dispatch and first responders on the scene. Officials can even operate Moore's tornado siren network from inside the command vehicle.
Three cameras — one on the roof of the cab and two mounted on a 40-foot tall mast — offer views on any side of the vehicle from the inside. It comes equipped with smart boards, or touch screens, for planning and mapping purposes.
And in the event those don't cut it, there is space for physical maps to be rolled out or stored neatly. In keeping with the tried-but-true theme, whiteboards dot the vehicle in strategic areas, even on cabinet doors.
A public address system enables communication to crowds, and there is a work station complete with television screen on the outside. The vehicle has independent climate control for the various sections, and even a small galley kitchen.
There was particular attention paid to the bathroom, which is situated on the other side of the vehicle, completely away from the control rooms.
Kitch said he hopes the vehicle only ever needs to be used for "planned events, parades and mutual aid."
This vehicle replaces the van that had been used as a mobile command center for Emergency Management. And while Kitch said it served its purpose on multiple occasions, the value of the new vehicle cannot be overstated.
"There was many a time that we would be controlling an event with a map spread out over the trunk of a car and a lantern turned upside-down for illumination at night," Kitch said. "If it was raining, we got wet. It makes it difficult to deal with maps, information, and so on."