Vehicle crucial to emergency response
‘‘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.’’
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.