The new VCSO Mobile Command Center

Saturday, June 10, 2017
The Vernon County Sheriff’s Office new mobile command center is on display at the southeast corner of the Square Saturday for the annual Bushwhacker Days celebration.
Ralph Pokorny/Daily Mail

When a large-scale emergency happens, everything can become extremely busy and at times, even chaotic. Everyone focuses on doing their job and through the chaos and commotion, take control of the scene. Listening to the police radio having non-stop traffic is something you get used to during these types of calls, but one thing you will never get used to is the radio communication turning silent during a large-scale incident.

On May 24, 2011, I was just finishing my patrol shift when dispatch began calling area units for assistance with what at first sounded like many traffic accidents caused by a storm. It was only a matter of minutes before information would start coming in that a tornado had hit the city of Joplin, and anyone who could respond was requested.

To this day, I have not seen so much destruction and chaos as I saw that night. As I responded with other members of my department, there were no communications, no visible landmarks, and to get to the area we were requested to search, there was no clear path for a vehicle, causing us to walk a long distance to get there.

During an event like this, you realize how much you rely on every emergency department being able to provide assistance when you call. Dial 911 and someone answers. Call for an ambulance, and one responds. Call for a fire unit, and they will be en route. But not on that day.

On that day, every available emergency unit was working but there were not enough to go around. A local law enforcement officer was using the trunk of his car as a make-shift office to assign emergency responders to different areas of the city and log locations that needed additional help, when the help became available. As more and more help arrived, things became more organized and rescue efforts continued and improved.

One thing I have always remembered from that event is that you must have a way to keep the lines of communication open. From decision making by command staff, to sending and receiving communication to responding units, having the ability to communicate is vital during large scale events.

At the Sheriff’s Office, we were recently able to expand our ability to respond to incidents by the acquisition of a mobile command center. Through another government agency, the Sheriff’s Office was given a mobile command center with most of the purchase price being waived. The command center was purchased for just $2,000 and can be used for housing a mobile dispatch center, a command room, and will carry supplies to work major crime scenes, medical supplies, and equipment for deputies.

The mobile command center will be available for emergency responders in Vernon County, and the South West Missouri Major Case Squad. Though we hope it will never be needed, the assistance of other agencies has given us the ability to better serve the citizens of Vernon County. The Mobile Command Center will be available for public viewing this weekend at the Sheriff’s Office booth at Bushwhacker Days. Feel free to stop by, say hello, and check it out!