The Columbia County Sheriff's Office fleet recently premiered its new Emergency Response Unit.
The sheriff's office command staff toured the 16-foot trailer before the multi-purpose unit headed off to its first assignment as a command center for the Citizen's Auxiliary and ATV units at the Columbia County fairgrounds.
"That's a smooth-looking ride," Sheriff Clay Whittle said as he approached the fully-stocked trailer that includes a retractable awning and telescoping flood lights on the outside.
The trailer and everything inside was purchased in June 2006 with $20,000 in state legislature grant funds secured by former state Sen. Jim Whitehead.
Crawford Cabinets donated and helped install cabinets and counter tops worth several thousand dollars, and vinyl flooring was donated by The Carpet Shop.
Sheriff's Office Auxiliary members performed much of the installation and customizing of the trailer.
Birnie Florie, the Auxiliary Unit co-chairman, said the unit can serve as a command post for situations in which several deputies are deployed to a single area such as manhunts or searches for missing people.
The search for Tamika Bumpass, who escaped police custody in 2002 after shooting a deputy, kept police in remote wooded areas near Harlem for an extended period of time.
Auxiliary members used their own vehicles to transport supplies to deputies, many of whom were deep in the woods.
"The command post was the trunk of a car. Now they can come in here," Florie said of the new trailer.
The trailer is stocked with all necessary items for a command post and victim's assistance including electricity, running water, radios and the most convenient feature -- a restroom.
"Most people don't think about it," Whittle said of the need for a restroom, "but it gets real important when you are way out there in the middle of nowhere."
Thanks to the assistance of an architect, who also is an Auxiliary member, the trailer is space efficient.
Whittle said he was surprised at how many supplies the trailer holds while still having so much usable space.
Chester Plecha, an Auxiliary member who did much of the work to customize the trailer, said it will make the job easier for police.
The trailer was completed with the addition of a door to the restroom stall, Plecha said.
Capt. Bill Probus, who oversees the sheriff's office Patrol Division, was amazed by the usable space as he climbed around inside the trailer.
"This is tremendous," he said.
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