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7th Annual Calif Mobile Command Center Rally Exhibits Technology & Teamwork as Part of APCO Western Regional Conference in Sacramento

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

Copyright: 9-1-1 Magazine, Feature Content

Date: 2015-04-13
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(Photo: R. D. Larson)

The California Mobile Command Center Rally was founded in 2009 by the California Fire Chiefs Association (Communications Section, Northern Division) in association with the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.  The concept was to gather together a wide variety of mobile command and communications units from around California in order to demonstrate the command support capabilities and mutual aid operability of different and distinct mobile communications assets available in the event of local, regional, and major emergencies and disasters. 

Through the years, the Rally has grown in size, scope, vendor sponsorship, and partnership. We are very pleased that one of these partnerships has been with 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 hosted the Western Region’s annual conference this last week.  As a partner of the California MCC Rally since its second event in 2010, NAPCO generously invited the Rally’s 7th Annual event to be held as part of its Western Regional Conference on April 9th.

   Above: The MCC convoy departs from Staging Area
(Michael Zalle) 

Overhead view of the Command Post (blue tent,center right), Cal OES Kern County), Salinas/Monterey, and Sutter County units.

This means that the entirety of the APCO Conference was among this year’s Rally audience, and Rally attendees received a free pass to the Conference’s Exhibit Hall to inspect the latest products, services, and technologies available to the public safety emergency communications community.  It was a valuable means of cross-pollination for public safety operations and mobile tools.

The MCC convoy arrives at the Rally site as the early morning mist burns away in their lights. (R.D.Larson)

The APCO Conference was being held at the Convention Center in downtown Sacramento, just a block from the State Capitol.  With the support of the Sacramento Fire Department on the Rally planning team, we secured permission to close 13th Street between J and L streets, giving us the entire long block with which to display some two dozen command vehicles of various sizes, including nine related vendor displays some of which offered special promotions to Rally attendees, or free antenna tech support or broadband connectivity during the event. 


Left: San Mateo Sheriff.  Right: Slide-outs like this on the San Ramon Valley FPD unit fron SVI, significantly increase interior workspace. (Don Irving)

A key feature of this year’s Rally was what we believe is history’s first-ever Parade of the Command Vans.  In order to ensure all the MCCs arrived at the same time into their pre-designated placement positions in the narrow confines of 13th Street, we had all of the participating vehicles report to a Staging area at the city’s North Corporation Yard (site of last year’s MCC Rally) at 6AM.  There, they were assembled into their spotting order, and at 7AM, with lights flashing on all vehicles that had them, the convoy proceeded the eight miles through morning freeway traffic to the Rally Site.  This kind of parade is unprecedented for Mobile Comm Vans as far as we know, and generated a lot of interest and photo taking.


Left: Richmond Police, vendor Chair Pros. Right: Solano County. (R.D. Larson)

Once all of the vehicles were powered up and set up for operation – the larger units sharing generator power with smaller units and vendor booths due to the absence of shore power availability on the street – the tours and demos began.  With command and communications units representing all disciplines of public safety response – police, fire, EMS from local, state, and federal entities, non-government organizations such as utility provider PG&E and the North Valley Animal Disaster Group, government support agencies such as Caltrans and California OES, military responders with the US Coast Guard, and a variety of communications technology vendors displaying new systems and networks.  Resources came as far south as Los Angeles County and as far north as Butte County.

This large command vehicle, built by Farber, belongs to Los Angeles Metro transit district and responds to support transportation emergencies on the district's assets and properties, frequently in conjunction with local fire and EMS resources.

As usual, a roster of relevant classes pertaining to mobile communications and unified incident management were offered, although class attendance was lower this year than in past Rallies.  The association with the APCO Conference allowed all Rally attendees to access the APCO Conference’s exhibit hall to see even more state-of-the-art technology and services relevant to 9-1-1 and emergency communications. A few of the Rally participants have taken advantage of a generous offer from APCO to display inside the APCO Exhibit Hall, including the Palo Alto Police Mobile EOC unit and its associated support vehicles, the Sacramento Regional Radio Communications System (SRRCS) Communications on Wheels trailer, uniquely powered by quiet fuel cells rather than by generator, and Rescue 42 which demonstrated its mobile communications workstation, The PodRunner.

Connected to the vehicle's trailer hitch for transport, the PodRunner provides a portable communications and command workstation to the mobile command vehicle arsenal of tools & technology.  (R.D. Larson)

This year’s exclusive Platinum Level Sponsors (LDV and PSI Public Safety Innovations) covered the cost of a pair of classrooms in the adjacent Hyatt Regency hotel for the Rally classes, and paid for BBQ’d lunches for the staff and MCC crews courtesy of the Sacramento Fire Dept. mobile food unit (arguably the most significant mobile unit on site!).  New Gold Level Sponsor, satellite network provider Squire Tech, provided three boxes of special MCC Rally t-shirts which were distributed to MCC crews and attendees at the Rally Command Post, and our Silver Level Sponsors (Chair Pros, CFCA Communications, DS Training & Consulting, and 9-1-1 Magazine) provided financial or service donations which helped defray the increasing costs of the free event.


Left: Command Trailer, North Valley Animal Disaster Group. Right: LDV-built Palo Alto PD Mobile EOC (R.D. Larson)

The Rally was an excellent opportunity to demonstrate how these command and communications vehicles, big and small alike, can support incident management, and to see how disparate kinds of organizations and public safety disciplines can work together and harness each other’s technological assets to mitigate emergencies equally as diverse. 

A special thanks must go to my fellow command and general staff personnel whose months of pre-planning and detail work made this year’s event a success – Incident Commander Chuck Berdan, Operations Chief Don Stabler, Logistics Chief Dave Larton, Vehicle Display Group Supervisor Chuck Schuler and Sacramento Fire Dept rep, Chief Scott Williams, NAPCO President Scott Andrews, and Training Classroom Group Supervisor John Gleichweit.  Particular thanks also goes to Cal OES Telecommunications chief George Lowry for support and direction, Sacramento PD for traffic control, Angela from Room 319 for the radios, and all the agencies who authorized their MCCs to represent their organizations and demonstrate the capabilities of mobile command and communications at this year’s event.

See related story: "I Survived the 2015 California MCC Rally!"



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