Emergency vehicles available to city, county

Published 12:09 am Saturday, April 25, 2009

Three high-tech emergency vehicles are now available to Demopolis and Marengo County officials through a grant made possible by the Department of Homeland Security.

On Thursday, the three vehicles were shown to Demopolis and Marengo County emergency personnel by officials from State of Alabama Homeland Security Region 3 in Tuscaloosa County. The region includes 10 counties in west Alabama, including Marengo County, with Tuscaloosa serving as the homeland security equipment site.

“What they did was fund regional assets instead of funding each little entity within the region,” said Marengo County Emergency Management Agency director Kevin McKinney. “So, all of this equipment is available to any agency in Marengo County upon request. We are very fortunate to have it.”

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“It’s absolutely amazing,” said Marengo County E-911 director Lisa Mangum. “I’m thrilled about it.”

Among the vehicles is a mobile command center for use by emergency management personnel. It has been used in several hurricane responses.

“This would be used if there were any time there is an incident with a need for mobile communications or a mobile instant command center,” said Sgt. Andy Norris of the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Department, who oversees Homeland Security grants.

“For instance, if the emergency radio system went down, we’ve got their frequencies in the computers on board. We’ve got a portable tower we can bring with a repeater system on it, so we could station that mobile repeater somewhere in the city or somewhere in the county to assist with their radio communications.”

Another vehicle is a mobile crime scene unit with equipment on hand to assist with criminal investigations.

“It’s a crime lab on wheels,” Norris said. “We can go out and process the scene of a crime, with the ability to take photographs, gather evidence and dust for fingerprints. It’s got the lighting system, luminal, in there, also. We can diagram a scene, take photos and upload them to a DVD — it’s got a DVD player and a big screen in there to put stuff up on a flat screen.

“It’s also got portable lights and an observation deck on top, if you want to take photos from overhead.”

A third vehicle is a completely armored BearCat for use in SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) assaults. It was purchased by the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Department, but is also available to entities within Region 3.

“That used to belong to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department,” Norris said. “They were training in a larger version, so we were able to get that and have it refurbished.”

Norris said the portable crime lab cost $400,000, while the mobile command center cost $123,000 fully outfitted by Sirchie, which included two slots in the North Carolina company’s crime scene evidence technician course.