McDONOUGH – Henry County Public Safety Departments received approval on Tuesday to replace two command vehicles in its fleet.
The vehicles, which act as mobile command centers, are deployed during emergencies such as fires, adverse weather events, hostage situations and the like. They serve as a meeting and communication place when multiple agencies are involved in emergency situations.
Fire Chief Jonathan Burnette explained that the two mobile centers that public safety currently has are 2005 models built on RV-style frames, which was standard practice in the early 2000s but are now obsolete. The mobile center used by the Henry County Police recently caught fire and is totally out of service.
“Both are now out of date and were not built to be updated and several parts are defective,” said Burnette.
A vehicle will be shared between the Henry County Emergency Management Agency, the Henry County Police, and the Henry County Fire Department.
The second will be used by the E911 center to act as a backup location. It will also be available for use by other jurisdictions that the county has emergency arrangements with.
Henry County Police Chief Mark Amermann said that while he hopes they never have to use command vehicles, both are necessary and represent a worthwhile investment for the county. He noted that if the centers are needed it means that a significant emergency is occurring which will often last several days.
“This is the vehicle for the next 20 years,” he said. “They can be constantly updated with new radios, computers and cameras; it’s huge and that’s what we need. “
Commissioner Vivian Thomas wondered why Amermann and Burnette weren’t pursuing a lease option rather than buying outright.
He suggested building command centers in fire stations rather than using mobile vehicles or possibly using drones to monitor situations.
Both explained that in case of an emergency they must be present on site to report and communicate to the base.
“The mobile allows you to be on the scene with real-time information coming to you,” said Amermann. “You can manage off-site emergencies, but it complicates the situation.”
He added that such vehicles protect staff from the elements and allow decision makers to be in one place at a time.
And while drones are useful, they aren’t practical, especially in the event of adverse weather events.
The county’s plan is to purchase the two vehicles using funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. County Director Cherie Matthews explained that if the county chooses to rent, the money to pay for the vehicles will have to come from the general fund rather than from the ARPA funds. She added that the Council of Commissioners previously stated that they want ARPA money to be used for general county needs.
Commissioner Johnny Wilson said that in addition to purchasing the new command vehicles, the county must consider replacing public safety vehicles as a priority, asking the fleet services to take inventory of what is necessary, such as fire trucks, ambulances and squad cars.
Fleet Services Director Jody Swords said the county’s average fleet age is 14, noting that some are 16-20 years old, many with obsolete parts.
The BOC unanimously approved the $ 2.7 million request. The vehicles will be purchased from Forsyth’s Ten-8 Fire and Safety Equipment.
It is currently unclear whether the county intends to allocate additional ARPA funds to the public safety cluster for fleet upgrades.