When Fire Chief Edmund Armstrong, who is also the city’s emergency management director, inquired about obtaining a mobile emergency operations center, he had a moderately-sized vehicle in mind.
That’s not what the city got.
Last week, the city took possession of a vehicle that rivals the length of a ladder truck and offers a traveling conference center, a kitchen and a communications center. In addition, there is a boom with a camera off the back of the vehicle that can be raised to provide a view of a disaster or a developing situation, such as the holding of a hostage.
Armstrong said the vehicle could be used in the event fire alarm headquarters is down. It would also be deployed in the event of a situation at Green Airport, or a blizzard or a hurricane.
Mayor Scott Avedisian noted yesterday, as he, fire and police officials gathered in the bay of Fire Station 1, that the vehicle would have been of tremendous help during the floods of 2010. It would have enabled commanders to be positioned near the flooding and in immediate contact with responders as developments occurred.
During non-emergencies, Avedisian sees the vehicle as a traveling classroom that can be used to show school children how the city is prepared to cope with emergencies.
But, while new to Warwick, the EOC is no stranger to Rhode Island.
As Armstrong explains it, when he asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency about a mobile center, he was informed North Providence had one since 2007 and only used it a few times. Most of the time it has been sitting in a parking lot.
“They didn’t have a lot of need for it,” he said.
Apparently, North Providence had no objection to turning the vehicle over. Armstrong said the vehicle could be made available to other municipalities as needed but Warwick personnel would go with the traveling center (with those costs being charged back).
Yesterday, Warwick was still trying to get all of the components of the vehicle operational. A pesky battery left the inside of the vehicle dark. Radios had to be tuned to proper frequencies and the mayor suggested it probably would make sense to trade out the bulky TV for a flat screen.
“It’s a great asset,” Avedisian agreed, “and, when it didn’t cost anything, it’s even better.”