Incident Command Train

Cities count on their Emergency Occupation Centers surviving a Disaster or attack. Command and Control problems develop when key personnel can't access the EOCs or the EOCs have been rendered inoperable. Even though an EOC may survive an attack or a disaster it may become inaccessible to the Incident Commander or its support crews. Getting support to the heart of a disaster site is the priority of the Incident Commander. If the EOC facilities are nonfunctional then relief efforts are stalled until the EOCs are re-established. The logistics required to re-establish an EOC competes with relief operations. Logistically it is better to have the ECO outside the disaster area so its operational needs do not distract from emergency activities.

By placing an Incident Command train outside the disaster area emergency coordination can still be achieved, and can continue while the train is relocated closer to the disaster site as conditions improve. As a self-contained unit there is no command time lost in establishing or relocating the train; compared to relocating temporary or vehicular based EOC operations, which divert resources and personnel from relief operations.

During forest fires where the destruction is moving the incident commander needs to move the EOC to maintain command of the situation. Forestry departments relay upon extremely flexible transportation and communication systems due to the terrain they operate in. These systems are well suited for combating forest fires but not for use in urban areas and cities. Urban areas and cities have a much greater demand of resources then forest fires when disaster strikes.

A rail based Incident Command Center would replicate the resources in a civic EOC, and be operative while on the move an advantage over the forestry system. Rail systems bypass highways that may be in gridlock or destroyed, which makes relocating an EOC Train faster and more advantageous.

Most EOCs are located near city administration centers which are prime terrorist targets, and where the density of the population is the greatest. Community up risings can render EOC inoperable. A rail based Incident Command train has the ability to be located in discrete locations and operate on the move thus nullifying the effects of protest or mass panic that inundates the commander center.

Incident Command Train: Concept of Operations

The Incident Command Train is intended to be a mobile self-contained forward operating post for the National Incident Management System. The train's configuration and communication components would facilitate the implementation of the following organizational systems: The Incident Command System, the Multi-agency Coordination System, and the Public Information System.

There are two scenarios that would utilize the Incident Command Train. The first would be preposition to an approaching disaster such as a hurricane. The second would be in response to a disaster such as a major earthquake or a terrorist attack.

In the pre-positioning mode the train would be spotted outside the anticipated disaster zone and wait until the event subsided. Response coordination would commence once initial damage reports were received. Relief coordination would continue while the Incident Command Train was relocated closer to the disaster site. The train would be spotted on a siding or rail yard capable of supporting the construction of a base camp.

The Incident Command staff would live on the train while base camp personnel would live in the base camp. The communications car would be equipped with a TV and Radio studio and the means to activate the Emergency Alert System. The studios would be used to provide public information and would double as a VTC suite. The Communications car would be equipped with communication systems to interface with commercial systems and multi-agency interoperability. The communications team would suspend repeater antennas from helium balloons to support line of sight radio systems for command and control. Local repeaters are usually one of the first communication assets destroyed in a disaster.

In the response mode the train would pick up its staff and proceed to the disaster site utilizing its communications systems to receive information about the scene while coordinating support for first responders. Once the Incident Command Train arrives on site it would either operate as a stand alone entity or serve as the corner stone for the construction of a base camp.

Consist Configuration Concept

The Incident Command Car will include a large conference room with video projection screens, and a VTC suite operated from the communications car, computer workstations would be provided for key staff personnel and Government agency representatives for coordinating support from other government agencies.

The Operations Car would be set up with multiple monitoring screens for tracking events and relief operations. Projection screens would display satellite and air scan information, a multiple monitor console would display information from different news agencies. Work stations would be equipped with lap top computer in docking stations, and telephones. The main operations area would have remote access to all communication systems. Remote access reduces the amount of equipment space that is required which frees up valuable work space and electrical circuits.

The Communications Support Car The purpose of the communications support car is strictly to provide communications systems to the Operations, Incident command and the Multi-agency Coordination car. The Communications support car is the most critical assembly of the Incident Command Train. Lack of interagency communication compatibility has been the down fall in disaster response as seen in 9-11, California Wild Fires, and Hurricane Katrina. There is a need for Incident Commanders to be able to communicate with the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, National Guard, Nongovernmental agencies, local response teams and the public. The equipment specified in this car is based upon proven systems (when utilized) used by the State of California, and equipment used by the National Guard, and other government and civilian agencies. The communications car must be equipped with both state of the art equipment and past technology to ensure equipment compatibility with older communities that have not up graded.

Background on a Proven Communication Systems

The State of California has constructed several state wide communication system to solve the problems of interagency communications. These systems are activated by the lead agency during a disaster. One system is the Operational Area Satellite Information System (OASIS). This is an earth-station system that provides data and telephone circuits for mutual aid and interagency communications independent of the public telephone system. Each of the 58 Operational Areas in the state, and other agencies are connected to the system for voice and digital communications. The system is augmented with portable systems to enhance response flexibility and access to remote areas.

California also developed three state wide microwave backbone links, for use with different repeater systems. The first system is devoted to county level emergency services, the second is for local, county, state and federal law enforcement agencies that are operating within the state, and the third is for county and state fire agencies with a dial-up VHF repeater system.

California also has equipment on hand that can operate on the SHARES frequencies for coordinating with SBC, NASA, USGS, and FEMA. California does have HF equipment capable of operating on the FNARS system. The FNARS ( FEMA NAtional Radio System) system a High Frequency (HF) radio system designed for connecting Federal public safety agencies and US military with most of the states is only marginally effective due to the lack of HF equipment owned by the National Guard an operated by the army. With the exception of a few key armories and special operations units HF doesn't exist in the military. HF is one of the more reliable means of radio communications with a range far exceeding VHF and UHF.