Communications and Command Vehicles: Dispatch Centers on Wheels

Barry Furey discusses how a properly designed communications vehicle provides a platform to interface the decision makers with decision-making technology, and is becoming a more frequent addition to fire departments throughout the United States.


When it comes to “must-have” apparatus, no piece surpasses the pumper. Engine companies are the backbone of any fire department, and as long as water or water-based agents remain our primary means of extinguishment, they always will be. Beginning with these basic building blocks, a...


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Slide-out rooms formerly found only in high-end motor homes now provide a means of expanding floor space for meetings and operations. Storing flush with the body sides for travel, they can add three feet or more to the width of the vehicle while in use. Leveling devices are also commonplace requirements in order to provide a stable working platform.

The list of interior options far exceeds the choices available in the design of any other form of apparatus, as it combines a list of furnishings, electronics and presentation devices. Solid countertops, common in custom kitchens, are now utilized to provide work surfaces for dispatchers. While adding weight, they eliminate the issue of chipping and peeling associated with older laminates. Walls and even cabinet surfaces can be given a gloss-white finish, in effect making the entire dispatch and meeting areas a giant white board. Exterior public address systems, along with flat-screen LCD and plasma TVs are but a few of the available features.

However, when it comes to exterior compartments, warning lights, and cab and chassis combinations, departments will once again find themselves back on comfortable grounds. Roll-up doors, interior illumination, sweep-out floors and adjustable compartment shelves are all familiar parts of any apparatus specification. Because they are typically long and tall, communications and command vehicles can benefit from warning signal applications similar to those used for walk in rescues. And, when it comes to the choice of custom versus commercial cabs and chassis, the same arguments still apply. The choice clearly becomes one of local preferences and available funds.

As the face of incidents to which the fire service responds constantly changes, our ability to support command and control must also progress. An adequate and coordinated response is critical to manage any incident. A properly designed communications vehicle provides a platform to interface the decision makers with decision-making technology, and is becoming a more frequent addition to fire departments throughout the United States.


Barry Furey, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is executive director of the Knox County, TN, Emergency Communications District. He is an ex-chief of the Valley Cottage, NY, Fire Department, ex-deputy chief of the Harvest, AL, Volunteer Fire Department and a former training officer for the Savoy, IL, Fire Department. Furey is past president of the Tennessee chapter of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) and former chair of the APCO Homeland Security Task Force. He also was conference chair for the 2002 APCO International Conference in Nashville.