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It never hurts to have a Plan C

In the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, one thing has become clear to emergency management officials across the nation. It never hurts to have a Plan C in case Plans A and B fail.

St. Francois County Emergency Management officials have been taking steps to implement their own &#8220Plan C” with the recent purchase of a mobile emergency command center.

The St. Francois County Commission has approved the purchase of an $18,000 trailer from Parkland Trailer Sales, the lone bidder for the project.

Once completely outfitted, the total cost of the mobile unit will be about $25,000, according to Alan Wells, director of 911 and assistant director of St. Francois County Emergency Management.

For what the county is getting, that is a fairly inexpensive price, Wells said. He has seen comparable units costing fifty to sixty thousand dollars.

“There are even units costing $200,000 to $300,000,” he added. “Obviously ours won’t have the capabilities of a unit like that, but it will get the job done for us.”

The mobile center can also serve as a backup 911 system if there ever were a catastrophe widespread enough to knock out both the 911 dispatch in Park Hills and the backup dispatching center in Farmington.

Wells said that with a 40-foot antenna, the mobile command center would be able to communicate over a 25-mile radius. Right now he has prices for a 30-foot antenna, but is hoping there will be enough funds for the taller one.

“It would not have the full capabilities of the 911 center, but it would help us keep the communications going,” Wells said, pointing out that the recent hurricanes in the Gulf Coast have underscored how important contingency plans for communication are.

This is just one more step in improving the county’s overall emergency preparedness, Wells said, a subject he has been very involved with since 1996, when the county’s emergency plan got its first major update.

It was in that year, Wells said, that it was decided to update the emergency plan every other year. This year, the county has made the decision to begin annual updates.

Wells said the county would have put the center to good use if it had been ready to go during the manhunt last week for Nicholas Thomure, the man accused of shooting a Frankclay couple.

The center would have eliminated a lot of traveling back and forth between law enforcement headquarters and the scene. It also would have kept that incident’s communications contained on its own frequency and out of the path of the 911 Center’s day to day operations.

The daily operations of the 911 center don’t necessarily lessen when there is a prolonged incident going on in the county, Wells pointed out. Having a mobile center to handle the communications of a prolonged incident can reduce the strain on the more usual operations of 911.

The center will also place a lot of resources at the fingertips of personnel working such a scene. The center will have both computer and satellite capabilities, which means maps showing what resources are in the field and where can be readily pulled up and used on the scene.

The exact completion time for the mobile center is not known at this time. While the manhunt for Thomure was under way Wells called to check on the status of the project. The county was fourth in line at that time.

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