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Northern California Public Safety Command Van Rally

by on June 4, 2012

Communication is the name of the game, and it’s difficult to find a better collection of communication tools, technologies, and experts than what was found at the Northern California Public Safety Command Van Rally held Thursday, May 31, 2012.

Coordinated by Cal EMA Fire & Rescue Division and the California Fire Chiefs’ Association, this fourth annual event brought together over 30 emergency response organizations from around the state to network, exchange ideas, and demonstrate the variety of capabilities and mutual aid operability of local and regional communications units.  The rally – held at the future site of the California Fire & Rescue Training Authority Drill Grounds in Rancho Cordova, California – was the largest to date and featured representatives from both state and local law enforcement, fire and rescue, military, as well as private industry partners.

“The level of participation in this event is another example of the strong mutual aid partnerships that exist between California’s emergency response organizations,” said Joe Gear, Assistant Chief of Special Operations for Cal EMA Fire and Rescue Division. “We are all on the same team, so these events are a valuable opportunity to get together and ensure we are operating on the same page when a crisis strikes.”

Says Don Stabler, Battalion Chief for Cordelia Fire Protection District, “A time of disaster is not the time to go shopping and figure things out. We have to do all that beforehand.  This rally is an opportunity for us to meet one another, and exchange ideas before we’re in the heat of the battle.”

During day-to-day operations, emergency responders use equipment and systems which are specific to the needs within their jurisdiction. However, during a large-scale disaster requiring response from multiple jurisdictions, those day-to-day systems need to be compatible with those of outside organizations. This ability to communicate and exchange information across multiple disparate systems is known as “interoperability”, and is one of the primary goals for rally participants.

“During a disaster, lack of communication can lead to confusion and chaos, and ultimately put lives at risk,” said Gear. “These events help to ensure every effort is being made to preserve the public’s health and safety.”

In addition to the various command vehicles and technologies, the rally also featured a presentation by Mr. Hitoshi Igarashi, emergency management instructor for the Secretariat for National Counter Terrorism Committee (SNCTC) in Cambodia. Igarashi shared his personal experiences from the devastating Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami, the difficulties encountered in the early stage of response, and his understanding of what was lacking in terms of effective implementation of command and control activities at local government level after the disaster.

Agencies attending the rally included:

Cal EMA; CALFIRE; California National Guard; InMotion; Sacramento Regional Fire/EMS Communications Center; Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District; Sacramento City Fire Department; Sacramento County; Cal Trans; American Red Cross; Cal EMSA; Verizon Wireless; Folsom Police Department; Palo Alto Police Department; California Highway Patrol; Nevada County Sheriff; San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District; Marin County Sheriff; PG&E; Kern County Fire; NViS Communications; Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety; United States Coast Guard; Clovis Police Department

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