Ve­hi­cle cru­cial to emer­gency re­sponse

Upper Hutt Leader - - FRONT PAGE - MATTHEWTSO

‘‘It's a very spe­cialised ve­hi­cle with spe­cialised staff op­er­at­ing it.’’

Other emer­gency ve­hi­cles get all the glory, while Fire and Emer­gency New Zealand’s un­ob­tru­sive com­mand ve­hi­cle qui­etly gets on with its job.

At first sight, it might ap­pear to be use­less for fight­ing fires, as it has no lad­ders or hoses. But in­side it is a mo­bile of­fice, equipped with ra­dios, com­put­ers and phones, and with wi-fi that is all run off on-board gen­er­a­tors.

It car­ries six pods con­tain­ing equip­ment for deal­ing with haz­ardous ma­te­ri­als, a high­def­i­ni­tion cam­era at­tached to a re­tractable mast, and a TV screen on the out­side to re­lay in­for­ma­tion to peo­ple im­me­di­ately out­side the truck.

‘‘In terms of man­age­ment, it would be one of the most im­por­tant ve­hi­cles [at a scene],’’ Welling­ton as­sis­tant area com­man­der Michael Dom­broski says. ‘‘We’d be pretty hard done by with­out it.’’

Welling­ton’s com­mand ve­hi­cle is one of 18 iden­ti­cal trucks spread across the coun­try, co-or­di­nat­ing op­er­a­tions, keep­ing track of re­sources and re­lay­ing in­for­ma­tion to who­ever needs it.

It forms part of the ‘‘sec­ond alarm’’, to be sent to the rel­a­tively rare in­ci­dents that can­not be con­tained by the first re­sponse.

It was sent to 182 in­ci­dents out of the nearly 7500 call­outs at­tended by fire­fight­ers in the year since June 1, 2016, cov­er­ing the area south of taki, the Hutt Val­ley and Welling­ton.

‘‘It’s great for brief­ing crews and other groups as they ar­rive. We don’t all have to cram in­side,’’ Dom­broski says.

‘‘It’s a vis­ual as­sem­bly point. It’s where peo­ple head when they need to find the peo­ple in charge or need in­for­ma­tion.’’

The sys­tems con­tained in the back of the 6.5-me­tre-long truck are so so­phis­ti­cated that op­er­a­tors can find and track fire trucks in real-time. They can even see whether or not in­di­vid­ual trucks have their lights and sirens on.

The com­mand ve­hi­cle is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week by a driver and an of­fi­cer in charge.

‘‘It’s a very spe­cialised ve­hi­cle with spe­cialised staff op­er­at­ing it,’’ Dom­broski says.

While the sys­tems would be op­er­ated by fire and emer­gency staff, the cen­tre can be run by other emer­gency agen­cies, such as the po­lice, and can be used to co-or­di­nate events such as se­ri­ous ac­ci­dents, nat­u­ral dis­as­ters or ter­ror­ist at­tacks.

Dom­broski says the tech­nol­ogy in the DAF truck, which was in­tro­duced about 2010, was a huge leap for­ward from the more ba­sic Mit­subishi com­mand trucks they re­placed.

Op­er­a­tors just have to be care- ful not to over­load them­selves with all the avail­able in­for­ma­tion.

‘‘We’re in­for­ma­tion rich. Ev­ery piece of in­for­ma­tion is im­por­tant – just not all at the sameO¯ time.’’

PHOTOS: ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF

Welling­ton as­sis­tant area com­man­der Michael Dom­broski Fire and Emer­gency New Zealand Sta­tion Of­fi­cer James Martin-Bond, above and left, in the Welling­ton com­mand unit truck.

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