Is a Mobile Command Center Worth It?

When considering whether a Mobile Command Center is worth the cost, the main factors to consider are:

· the primary mission functions the Command Center is to perform,

· your agency’s budget for the initial purchase

· your agency’s budget for the long-term logistics life-cycle costs, including direct maintenance costs and labor costs to provide long-term logistics support to operate the command vehicle.

The answer typically comes down to understanding your real mission need, your budget, and whether or not all the features of a Mobile Command Center are truly worth the cost.

The primary purpose of a Mobile Command Center is to provide forward deployed Command, Control and disaster Communications response capability for emergency or disaster events; and also to provide back-up communications for key emergency communications systems. Mobile Command Centers are used to provide forward deployed emergency communications at the most critical point of operations. Having disaster communications closest to where there are “boots on the ground” allows for the highest level of Situational Awareness (SA) at the emergency events most critical nerve centers. The value of having this type of communications capability during certain emergency or disaster events is immeasurable. This type of communications capability has proven in many cases to be the difference between life and death, and whether or not critical command and control can be established in the first critical hours.

Mobile Command Centers can also provide emergency communications where infrastructure has been compromised such as a breakdown of communications systems

(loss of repeaters, cell towers, and networks systems) and they provide command center

capability when there is the loss of grid power and other infrastructure systems. Mobile Command Centers are often large vehicle platforms and can have extensive facilities including conference space, and living quarters in addition to communications systems for communicating with and coordinating resources. These vehicles are almost always highly customized and come with very high price tags, so every aspect of whether a Mobile Command Center is worth the cost should be fully considered before any agency or community invests the money for one of these vehicles.

When deciding whether a Mobile Command Center is worth the cost, you should consider all the costs involved, not only the initial capital investment. Often coming with a price tag of $1,000,000 or more, these vehicles have a significant logistic life-cycle tail that is very often overlooked. Given the size and complexity of the vehicle, the annual life-cycle tail cost is typically 10%-20% of the capital investment, which means these vehicles typically have a maintenance life-cycle tail of $100,000-$200,000 or more annually. Additionally, there are very real staffing costs to consider. A typical vehicle will require at least one (1) to two (2) FTE’s (Full Time Equivalent Person(s)) to maintain and operate it. This is especially true if the vehicle requires a Commercial Drivers License (CDL) or has specialized systems where special skills are needed to deploy and operate it.

Another factor to consider is that the communications equipment contained within the vehicle has a life cycle of only 7-10 years. This is because communications technology

The cost to replace obsolete emergency communications equipment in a MCC needs considered

evolves very rapidly. As a result, nearly all systems and communications equipment within the vehicle will become obsolete well within this period. This means that at least once during the Mobile Command Center’s service life the vehicle will need to be completely renovated with new equipment. Renovating a vehicle simply to replace communications systems comes with its own risks as it is possible to spend significant funds to upgrade the communications systems only to shortly afterwards experience costly maintenance issues with the vehicle itself. In essence, these vehicles actually have much shorter service lives than most realize because the weakest link in the chain is the communications systems themselves. It often makes little sense to upgrade equipment in an older vehicle as the vehicle has a higher likelihood of critical failure just when needed most.

Many municipalities and agencies overlook these costs and then eventually find they cannot afford to keep their vehicle at all. Budgets at the municipal level are highly vulnerable to rapidly shifting fiscal priorities and it is often hard to justify the maintenance costs on a vehicle that may be rarely deployed, even though the communications capability they provide is critical when needed. One community had invested in a Mobile Command Center, only to find they could not afford to keep it long-term, and eventually transferred it to another nearby municipality for $1.00 simply to avoid the annual life-cycle costs.

Beyond the cost considerations, when you boil down the essence of the actual mission of what a Mobile Command Center is supposed to do, it really truly is only about the communications capabilities. Everything else beyond communications is a luxury for most agencies and communities. This is because there is a more cost-effective alternative that provides all the emergency communications capabilities without all the overhead of having a “logistically heavy” Mobile Command Vehicle. If an agency or community is willing to trade off the more expensive elements of the vehicle itself, they truly can have all the emergency communications capability in a much more affordable package. This capability literally turns any vehicle or mobile platform into a Mobile Command Center for a fraction of the cost of a typical Mobile Command Center at less than one (1) year’s maintenance of one of these vehicles.

SemperComm is a Mobile Command Center that provides all the critical emergency communications of a full- size command vehicle without all the other costly overhead. It provides everything needed for rapidly deployable critical emergency communications in very nimble portable package. SemperComm provides broad spectrum public safety communications with completely autonomous operating capability including the ability to generate its own self-sustaining power. SemperComm provides everything a larger Mobile Command Center vehicle provides, and more, for a fraction of the cost. The SemperComm Mobile Command Center provides significantly high value operational capability that makes it well worth the cost. You can learn more about it here.

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