The next time Lodi police and fire crews are called to a fatal accident, a homicide or a major fire, they'll be a little more prepared.
Equipped with telephones, laptop computers, a bathroom and thermal imaging cameras, a new mobile operations center can be set up at an investigation scene in as little as 15 minutes.
After more than two years, an idea became a reality as police and fire crews toured their new mobile unit Tuesday, admiring the padded blue chairs in the hostage negotiation room and the laptop computers in the communications room.
"We've got radio equipment that will communicate with almost anybody on the planet," Lodi police Sgt. Bill Barry said as he turned on a computer and demonstrated its networking capabilities Tuesday.
After two years of planning and designing, the fifth-wheel trailer has been completed and now has a home at Lodi Fire Station 4 on Lower Sacramento Road. The trailer itself serves as the command post and was paid for with a $175,000 State Cops for Technology grant.
The truck used to pull the trailer cost an additional $48,500 and was paid for by the fire department's general fund, Fire Chief Mike Pretz said.
Pretz and Police Chief Jerry Adams have worked together on the project, and are also planning to hold training exercises using the new unit.
"To my knowledge, this is one of the few joint ventures between police and fire departments in the area," Adams said.
Since hundreds of firefighters lost their lives in the collapse of the World Trade Center last year, rescue crews have been working to build better lines of communication, Barry said.
The mobile center not only has various speakers so crews can listen to more than one radio channel at once, but it also houses three different televisions and thermal imaging cameras. This technology makes it possible for crews inside the mobile unit to see through water or smoke, Adams said.
Adams, who remembers events where police officers spread maps on hoods of patrol cars, sees the new unit as a big improvement. Police officers and firefighters can meet inside the unit, draw plans on several white boards and not worry about bad weather conditions, he said.
The mobile center was first put to the test last week, when police officers used it during a flu shot session at the Grape Festival Grounds. Officers and nurses alike were able to get in out of the pouring rain, and hospital staff members were grateful for it, Adams said.
Both the command room and the hostage negotiation room are stocked with a microwave, refrigerator and coffee pot, and all three rooms have telephones and computer hook-ups.
"We could handle a major incident for days on end," Barry said.
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