The Bryan County Emergency Services Headquarters on Hwy. 204 is now home to a $620,000 mobile command vehicle. The large mobile facility, paid for by a state grant in November, will serve as mission control if there is a catastrophic event in Bryan County.
Inside its camper-like exterior are seven work stations with a camera system able to show live events as they unfold, a satellite television and satellite communication abilities. Huge satellite antennas sit atop the vehicle for communication with state or other local agencies in the event of an emergency situation.
"It’s like stepping out of the dark ages and into real time for emergency management," County Administrator Phil Jones said. "This is new territory for us. As far as emergency response to remote areas goes, it doesn’t get any better that this – this is the top of the line. It gives you the ability to communicate in any shape, form or fashion that you need to. You can actually set this up and operate it is as a 911 center if all your lines are down."
Pembroke Police Chief Bill Collins said this vehicle will be useful for much more than just natural disasters, and it will improve the efficiency of local law enforcement.
"For the Pembroke Police Department and all law enforcement in Bryan County, this is going to be a critical piece of equipment because emergency services covers law enforcement, fire and EMS," Collins said. "For instance, in a hostage situation, we now have the capability to remotely monitor the situation while keeping the officers safe outside. Anytime there is a big event, for either agency, we now have access to stuff that is going to keep us safer, give us more capabilities and keep us communicating, and we have the ability to get any information we need out of this thing. There have been many, many instances in the last several years that, if this thing could’ve been utilized, people would’ve been safer, things would’ve happened quicker, we would’ve known where everyone was at – we’ve stepped into a new age today."
Emergency Services Director Jim Anderson plans to immediately start training Bryan County career firefighters to use the vehicle. After that, emergency personnel throughout the county will intermittently be trained.
"This is several years in the making," Anderson said. "When I came on board in my position in 2004, I had conversations with County Administrator Jones on how this is something that is needed. Since then, there’s been a lot of meetings and a lot of planning. Allen Robinson and Chuck Ray from Georgia Emergency Management Agency have been instrumental in helping us get the vehicle. I’m very pleased with this project."
The vehicle belongs to Bryan County, but, in accordance with the grant, it will have to be deployed to other areas of coastal Georgia if there is an emergency. If there are simultaneous emergencies in Bryan and somewhere else, it stays here.
Bob Sapp with North American Catastrophe Services, the company that custom built the vehicle, drove the vehicle down and gave a tour of it to the emergency personnel and county officials that were on hand for its arrival.
Sapp said the vehicle has cellular and satellite capabilities of its own in addition to dispatch capabilities and "just a whole host of state-of-the-art communication capabilities. I can tell you firsthand that it can fit 25 people that are working hard and they can still get their work done."
County Commissioner Rick Gardner said he was pleased with the fact that this connects Bryan County to the FEMA and GEMA efforts, "so in times of emergency, we will be an integral member of the team. That’s what this vehicle does for us. It connnects us to a higher level and allows us to stay in contact with our ground forces that will be on the front lines of emergency response."