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Loudon 911 Mobile Unit

Although Loudon County already had a modern and well-equipped 9-1-1 dispatch in 2001, the county's public safety officials recognized the flexibility and additional safety factor that could be provided by a "PSAP on wheels."

"We wanted a mobile communications vehicle in case we had to respond to a significant law enforcement or fire incident," explains the Loudon County 9-1-1 director. "This would be especially true in the case of a long-term incident that required coordinating communications between different agencies and mutual aid groups.

The need for a mobile communications center was made even more urgent when the facility was forced to move from its existing location within the Loudon County Justice Center due to construction.

During the planning of the new communications vehicle, Loudon County 9-1-1 decided to use a vehicle that was somewhat unique in that it was literally an entire E911 center on wheels, complete with CAD systems, mapping, radio dispatch consoles, and a full-blown E9-1-1 PSAP Telephone System.

The Communications Vehicle included a Zetron Radio Model 4020 CCU (Common Control Unit) and three of Zetron's model 4018 Pushbutton Radio Consoles, along with three Zetron Series 3200 9-1-1 Telephone System Telephones.

The Series 3200 Phone system includes the ALI controller which provides interface into the CAD and mapping software. Each of the three desktop positions is equipped with desktop ALI displays for incoming call locator information. The Series 3200 uses a 25-pair telephone cable that runs from the vehicle into a prelocated RJ21X Telephone Box to have actual 9-1-1 service at different locations in the county routed directly into this vehicle.

The 34-foot long trailer is pulled by a diesel-powered Ford Club Cab pickup. The interior of the trailer is divided into three distinct areas. The "Gooseneck" at the front of the trailer serves as the equipment room holding all of the main phone and radio equipment. Next is the dispatch area equipped with two Radio Consoles and two Telephone consoles. (The dispatch area also houses a restroom.) The rear of the trailer houses the Chief's quarters, with a third radio console and third telephone for use by a supervisor or another dispatcher.

The Loudon County Mobile Communications Vehicle got its first real world test as soon as it was completed as it served the "home away from home" for three months until the 9-1-1 center could be relocated to a different facility. It was also been in service at several duration incidents, including an officer-involved shooting and a missing child investigation.

"Ordinarily, we dispatch for 20 agencies in Loudon County," White said, "but we are also the designated dispatch for regional response. We're the Region Two district of Tennessee. There are a total of 16 counties in the region, and our mobile communications vehicle is built to deploy to any of those counties."

To provide interoperability, the vehicle is equipped with multiple radios which allow the Model 4018 consoles to access all radio channels used across the region.

There are 18 separate radios (including VHF, UHF and 700/800 MHz all with at least 250 channels each) interfaced to the radio console channel cards in the 4020. This lets the operators select the channel in the radio that the consoles ned to talk on for the event. It also has a remote control at one of the dispatch positions for a dual-band VHF and UHF 160 channel radio which allows the dispatcher to select the needed channel for the moment that the consoles will operate on. The 700/800 MHz radios include Project 25 and SmartNet/SmartZone capability. There is a 16-channel VHF and a 16-channel UHF repeater that can provide repeated communications where coverage may be lacking or in the event that everything else has been lost.

To provide radio coverage, the vehicle has a 40-foot push-up antenna mast located on each corner of the traile. VHF and UHF folded dipole base station antennas located in the upper storage area can be easily attached to these masts. Alternatively, Loudon County has a mobile command vehicle when needed. Even the Ford pickuo tow vehicle is equipped with radios and antennas, providing another resource for communications support.

The vehicle also has an amateur ("Ham") radio that covers 0.5 to 450 MHz. This Ham radio can be remotely operated from any of the console positions.

The tremendous capability and flexibility of Loudon County's Mobile Communications Vehicle means that it can respond to emergencies not only on a local level, but at a regional or even a national level if needed.

"This is the first time we've had anything with this kind of capacity," says 9-1-1 Director White. "Now that everyone has seen what we have, our mobile communications vehicle is starting to see more use on a regional level."

In the early days after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, the local FEMA director requested the use of Loudon County's mobile communications vehicle. The vehicle was quickly loaded up with supplies and the Loudon County EMA Director, Gordon Harless, and two Loudon County dispatchers drove the vehicle to Brookhaven, Mississippi. As it turned out, the visit was a short one, as the existing PSAP was quickly restored to working order.