Columbia County's Mobile Operations Center will soon receive its first major overhaul.
The Georgia Emergency Management Agency recently awarded the county a $172,000 grant in Homeland Security funds to upgrade communication systems on the 40-foot vehicle, which can be transformed into a 911 dispatch center.
"This is going to really bring us up to speed without having to use any kind of local funds to do it," said county Emergency and Operations Director Pam Tucker.
The Mobile Operations Center was bought in 2004 with a $500,000 Homeland Security grant, but because of advances in technology the unit's original capabilities are out of date, Tucker said.
Within the next six months, Tucker said, the vehicle will undergo updates to the onboard satellite, radio, computer, video and telephone systems to ensure highly specialized communications during emergency and disaster situations.
Tucker said she anticipates that the vehicle will be out of commission for about two weeks.
Since its purchase, the unit has been used for several training activities and involved in search-and-recovery operations in the county, Tucker said.
In 2008, the Mobile Operations Center provided radio and telephone communications and Internet service for three days after a string of tornadoes swept through Jefferson County.
The unit was placed on standby for other disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina and the wildfires in south Georgia.
"Those are the kinds of things we need this unit to be able to do, so this money will get us there," Tucker said.
The Mobile Operations Center also is designed to serve as a backup to the county's Emergency Operations Center in times of crisis.
The vehicle, operated by trained volunteers, is maintained by Columbia County but provides service to 24 counties in Georgia.
"We're in the middle of a lot of rural counties that don't have anything to back them up whenever they lose their systems," Tucker said. "We're real proud to be able not only to serve our citizens, but those citizens in other counties as well."
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.