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City's new truck makes response more mobile

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Posted: Sunday, August 16, 2009 10:00 pm

Over the past several years, many people have noticed a very large white tractor-trailer with giant Lodi Fire Department and Lodi Police Department badge decals on it being driven around town. It is the city of Lodi Mobile Operations Command Center.

Some citizens have wondered what it is used for. Hopefully, I can answer some of those questions.

We are all well aware of the events that occurred on September 11, 2001. One of the things that became painfully evident was that there were problems with the responding agencies being able to communicate with each other. Police, fire and other emergency agencies could not speak to each other directly. If two departments, say NYPD and FDNY, wanted to talk with the other, one dispatch center would have to contact the other and relay the information.

That took a lot of time, and lives were in the balance. The public was also frantically calling the dispatch centers as the crisis was unfolding. The centers were completely overwhelmed. There was a big delay in relaying vital information, or, in some cases, the information was never passed along at all.

Our MOCC was designed to handle all emergency radio traffic for responding agencies and relay that radio traffic without delay. Currently, Lodi police officers on the street have radios that allow communication between us, and Stockton Police Department, Galt Police Department, San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office and the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office.

The Lodi Fire Department also has similar communication limitations. Any other radio traffic would have to be routed from our dispatchers at the police station to the dispatchers from another agency over the phone, then on to the other emergency personnel. That takes a great deal of time. Think about the resources that would be required to effectively handle any major incident in the area. Say the Mokelumne River overflowed and flooded parts of Lodi and Woodbridge. The public safety response would be huge and would not only include Lodi PD, but the Sheriff's Department, the Lodi Fire Department, Woodbridge Fire Department, California Highway Patrol, the County Office of Emergency Services and the city of Lodi's streets, utilities and public works departments as well. In addition, ambulance services, Caltrans and other local agencies would respond. That would be a lot of people from a lot of agencies all trying to communicate with each other.

Our Mobile Operation Command Center can handle those types of situations. Equipped with modern computer equipment, software and several banks of radios, the MOCC allows communication between multiple agencies. Agencies that at one time could not speak to each other over the radio now have their communications merged with the use of the computer, eliminating the need for radio communications to be passed along via dispatch centers.

The MOCC is also has a bank of televisions so personnel can monitor media accounts of the event. There is a small dining area that is usually used for briefing incoming personnel. There is a secure area for personnel to plan operations without distraction. There is even a small bathroom inside the trailer.

Now you are probably thinking the MOCC has a lot of equipment for a flood that comes along every twenty years or so.

The MOCC is also used as a mobile police station for events such as the Grape Festival and Fourth of July. It has been used as a distribution center for flu shots. It is also brought out to the scene and used as a command post for lengthy investigations such as fatal traffic collisions and homicide and arson investigations.

The MOCC serves as a base of operations for our S.W.A.T. Team and the Critical Incident Negotiation team during a barricaded suspect or hostage situation.

Some might wonder how much the semi-truck and 37-foot trailer cost the city. The answer is zero. The entire MOCC was purchased with grant money provided by the federal government.

Any comments, questions or advice for Behind the Badge can be e-mailed to Jeanie Biskup at jbiskup@pd.lodi.gov or mailed to Lodi Police Department, 215 W. Elm St., Lodi, CA 95240, phone (209) 333-6864.

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