The Jackson County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) added a new communications and command trailer to their list of EMA assets recently.
"We've learned, especially with COVID, all disasters are local," Paul Smith, director of the Jackson County EMA. "When you have a disaster that effects everybody you have to be able to rely on your own equipment."
The vehicle, a partnership between the Jackson County EMA, the Alabama Department of Public of Public Health and Google, is the culmination of an 18-month long project initiated by the EMA's late Director, Felix Jackson, who passed away in October 2019.
Jackson saw an opportunity to procure the trailer at no cost to the citizens of Jackson County from ADPH, once returned to the county the department worked to fulfill his vision for the trailer.
"If it hadn't been for Felix or the Google folks, we wouldn't have been able to do this," said Smith.
Google, and its employees, through one of the company's grant programs donated the equipment and technology inside of the trailer — a total of $55,000 worth of equipment according to Smith, still at no cost to the citizens of Jackson County.
Labor to install the equipment was donated by the Jackson County Amateur Radio Club and the Jackson County Community Emergency Response Team.
According to Smith, the trailer will just be deployed to emergency settings. The trailer and its equipment will also be utilized to provide crowd control and communications support for large events held in the county such as the Bass Master Tournament.
It also has the ability to serve as a mobile dispatch unit for police departments throughout Jackson County in the case of emergency.
The trailer features up to date communications equipment, something that was important for the EMA to prioritize, as the director of JC EMA noted, that they wanted to ensure that the project wouldn't have to be redone anytime soon.
"It's a very valuable asset and we hope we never have to use it," said Smith.
The trailer can be used in various environments to respond to disasters not only in Jackson County, but also in the state of Alabama as needed. It features a cell signal booster than can assist in maintaining communications in a disaster area, as well as two generators to provide power.
The communications equipment in the trailer would potentially allow the Jackson County EMA officials to be able to communicate with anyone in the world if necessary.
County officials and the Jackson County Commission toured the vehicle during an unveiling on Nov. 12 at the Jackson County Courthouse.