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History of the California MCC Rally

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The California Mobile Command Center (MCC) Rally was inaugurated in 2009 at the suggestion of the California Fire Chiefs Association (CFCA), Communications Section. Inspired by a series of annual MCC (sometimes called MCVs for Mobile Command Vehicles) Rallies that had been initiated in Fairfax County, Virginia in 2004, the California Rally was founded by Randall D. Larson, a field communications trainer for CFCA and the San Jose Fire Dept. (SJFD).  Larson had been involved in developing two command/communications vehicles for the San Jose Fire Department and had explored MCCs as a writer for homeland security trade magazines (Larson has also served as editor of 9-1-1 Magazine since 1995). Larson felt the kind of event that Fairfax County had spearheaded would have a significant benefit for the west coast. CFCA’s Executive Board agreed, and with the support of the California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA; then the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services), we held our first MCC Rally in May of 2009, attracting 20 state-of-the-art mobile command and communications vehicles and trailers on display from law, fire, local government, regional, private, and state agencies.

The goal of the MCC Rally is, firstly, to bring a variety of such units to one place so that personnel throughout the region can see what resources are available in their given area, get to know each other, and understand how to partner with their allied agency and private sector responders so that during a real disaster or emergency they can best integrate each other’s capabilities to maximize command, control, and communications in support of the response. Additionally, by learning from the experiences of others in designing, deploying, and operating modern MCCs, attendees come away with inspired ideas that can be used to modify their own MCC operations or designs.

The success of the inaugural Rally prompted planning for a second Rally in 2010. Once again held at the Northern California Regional Public Safety Training Center in Sacramento, the second annual California MCC Rally brought an even more diverse array of mobile communications resources, and was enhanced by a concurrent series of relevant classes running throughout the day.

The second Rally also attracted more involvement from the private sector and vendor community, recognizing that true disaster management will require the close cooperation and partnership of each of these sectors in addition to our own network of public safety hierarchies. Manufacturers of MCCs, suppliers of wireless and interoperability systems, and support companies were invited and brought out the latest and greatest tools and technology to whet the appetites of the attendees. In addition to public safety first responders of every discipline, allied support services such as the California Dept. of Transportation, EMS Authority, and Air Resources Board, and private sector leaders like Cisco, Raytheon, and Verizon Wireless displayed their command units, giving many of the response community a close look at what these necessary support organizations can bring to the planning and logistics tables of an incident scene.

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The third annual Rally was held at the NASA Research Center at Moffett Field in Mountain View (CA) in conjunction with Carnegie Mellon University-Silicon Valley, whose second annual Disaster Management Initiative (DMI) was held concurrently with the MCC Rally. Taking place over two days, a crowd of more than 400 communications and disaster management professionals, amateurs, and volunteers from Humboldt to Los Angeles assembled to tour some twenty MCCs and attend more than 30 training sessions ranging from classroom presentations to hands-on, interactive exercises relevant to emergency and disaster management communications and interoperability. The notion of combining the vehicle display with an expanded cadre of provocative workshops and exercises was seen as a way of fulfilling our original goals for the Rally while giving CMU an added hands-on bonus with state-of-the-art vehicular technology.

With the CMU campus unavailable for our Rally’s time frame in 2012, CFCA and Cal-EMA returned to Sacramento to hold the 4th Annual MCC Rally at the future site of the California Fire & Rescue Training Authority Drill Grounds on May 31st. The event was also simplified to focus on display, demonstration, and interoperability capabilities of nearly 30 units from local, regional and state public safety, military resources, utilities, and the vendor community.

One of the Rally’s partners since its second event in 2010 has been the Northern California Chapter of APCO (the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials – International, the largest public safety communications association in the world). The Northern CA Chapter (NAPCO) is a part of APCO’s Western Region (the largest region of that parent agency) and was hosting the Western Region’s annual conference in 2015. As a result of our ongoing collaboration, NAPCO generously invited the Rally’s 7th Annual event to be held as part of its Western Regional Conference on April 9th. This allowed more than 20 mobile command and communications units to be displayed inside and on the streets outside the Sacramento Convention Center and inviting all the attendees of APCO’s conference to tour the Rally as an official part of the Conference, and attendees of the Rally to access APCO’s trade show exhibit hall.

The increase in attention and recognition of the MCC Rally also brought in new sponsors who have continued to support the event over the years, providing an essential partnership of financial and service resources that have allowed the Rally to grow and offer more value to its participants and attendees.  See our Sponsorship page for details and a list of our valued Rally sponsors over the years.

With our Eighth Annual Rally held on the grounds of the Sacramento Metro Fire Department Fleet and Communications Facility in May 2016, we attracted nearly two dozen returning and first-time vehicles, and attendees from throughout California. We were especially pleased to once more exemplify the concept of mutual aid and allied organizational support with representatives not only from local, county, regional, and state public safety agencies but from the military, non-governmental organizations, and the vendor support community, all of which regularly work together on major disaster responses. Understanding what resources and responsibilities each entity can bring to the incident command post enables each player in the emergency response and support system to recognize how each can work together during them most catastrophic of events.  We look forward to the next event with pride and enthusiasm.

As additional Rallies are planned and held, we look forward to continued opportunities to exemplify the best of mobile command and communications technology, operations, and training - and we continue to be grateful to our hosts, sponsors, and agency participants for their committed support and involvement. 

 - Randall D. Larson, Rally Founder and Plans Section Chief

Return to CA MCC Rally Home Page



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