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9th Annual California Mobile Command Center Rally: Emergency Management, Communications, & Coordination on Wheels

Author: Randall D. Larson, MCC Rally Founder & Plans Section Chief

Copyright: Copyright 9-1-1 Magazine, Feature Content

Date: 2017-05-30
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Photos by the author

The 9th Annual California Mobile Command Center Rally took place on May 10th in Sacramento.  Hosted by the Sacramento Metro Fire Department in conjunction with the California Fire Chiefs Association, Communications Section, the event was again held at Metro Fire’s Communications and Fleet Management Facility.


With a roster of mobile command/communications units on display, this year’s Rally featured a wide range of sizes, shapes, and designs – from brand new state-of-the-art units to home-grown, volunteer-designed units, recognizing all disciplines expected to be involved during major emergencies or disaster responses, from local and regional law enforcement and fire resources to the U.S. Coast Guard, such essential support organizations as CalTrans and Emergency Management units from several counties, to non-government organizations such as AT&T and the North Valley Animal Disaster Group, essential in evacuations that affect pets and livestock.

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Among the new apparatus joining the Rally for the first time was the Alameda County Regional Communications Center mobile dispatch and command vehicle, the Alameda County OES Communications Team van, the San Francisco PD’s Mobile Emergency Operations Center, the Contra Costa County Fire Command unit, and AT&T’s Network Disaster Recovery group with their Mobile Communications Vehicle and COLT (Cellular on Light Truck), which is capable of temporarily restoring wireless communications infrastructure to disaster areas. The functionality of these mobile command and communications units is seen to be of vital support to public safety, emergency management, and non-governmental support organizations from the local incident command post to large-scale events and disaster response and recovery.


Newly-delivered units as well as dependable older models from such major manufacturers as LDV, Farber, SVI Trucks, Frontline, Hi-Tech/EVI, and others were on display with new technological and operational innovations and improvements shown.  An increasing number of technology vendors were mixed in with the vehicles to display the latest products in mobile radios, satellite networks, interoperability communication systems, portable deployable command workstations, and so on.


“This event is getting bigger each year, drawing more people, not only from the technology field, but dispatchers and field communications personnel who want to know what the latest greatest ‘tools of the trade’ are,” said Don Stabler, 2017’s MCC Rally Incident Commander. “Agencies are also sending people to learn what other agencies have done with design and operation of mobile comm units so as to not re-invent the wheel.”


For several years the California MCC Rally has partnered with the Community Emergency Management Institute Japan, an organization developing initiatives and training in emergency management to help local communities to be resilient to calamities, as well as a platform for those who are in the field of emergency management to share knowledge, skills, policies, methods and wisdoms that could be used to better prepare for the future disasters.* CEMIJ’s International Programs Manager, Hitoshi Igarashi and Chief Administrative Officer Hideo Yoshimura, were invited to attend the 2017 Rally, interfacing with Rally staff and touring the vehicles to bring back information to assist the CEMIJ with developing programs.


“Japan has been investigating the best practices that can enhancement field level emergency operations and management,” said CEMIJ’s Hitoshi Igarashi. “This Rally has been an excellent opportunity to update how an American model is operated by integrating the mobile command vehicle. The Japanese Department of Land, Transportation and Infrastructures has integrated a concept of mobile field level command and control in Japan, while CEMIJ has been working on sharing the California model with Japanese fire agencies. The Rally has been of great help to their efforts since 2012.” 

In addition to the apparatus and technology displays, an increasingly important draw of the Rally continues to be a roster of classroom presentations that have been scheduled throughout the day. Classes offered information on upgraded mobile communications technology as well as reports on lessons learned from recent event experience; among the most popular of the latter was a panel discussion on communications management during the recent Oroville Dam Spillway emergency which, like the previous year’s panel on communications challenges at Super Bowl 50, shared experiences in handling communications support in challenging situations.


From its first Rally in 2009 the California Mobile Command Center Rally, held annually in May, has been an increasing draw for sharing information and networking between dispatch & field personnel and hardware & equipment, providing training and awareness in new technology and sharing an understanding in how public safety agencies have adapted that technology into functional operation to support command and communications management of major emergencies throughout California.

The Rally continues to be made possible by the support of public safety agencies who allow their vehicles to participate and personnel to attend, through the Sacramento Metro Fire Department for hosting us for the second year in a row, the California Fire Chiefs Association, Communications Section for handling our finances, and, especially, for our sponsors who provide the funding and services to keep the Rally going year after year. As a public safety agency- and organization-hosted event, the California MCC Rally continues to invite public safety and support personnel to attend at no charge.

“For next year, a new host facility is in the works,” said Stabler. “Eight of the last nine Rallies have taken place in the Sacramento area, and we are now working with an agency for the 2018 event to be held in the San Francisco Bay Area.  News should be coming soon as to a date and location.”

For more information on the California Rally – including examples of our 2017 Rally Incident Action Plan, articles and photos from previous Rallies, and links to mobile command center rallies and events elsewhere in the US, see:

* See our story California-Based Mobile Command Vehicle Rally Giving Insight to Emergency & Disaster Management in Japan




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