Mobile Command Centers and Disaster Response

This article provides an overview of Mobile Command Center performance during disaster response and how to achieve best possible operational outcomes.

Disaster response consists of the immediate actions taken to contain, mitigate and reduce the impact of a disaster. The primary objective of Disaster Response is to prevent loss of life and property to the largest extent possible. Disaster response often

Disaster response are immediate actions taken to mitigate a disaster

begins before the disaster event occurs (such as with a hurricane), or immediately after the event, with the First 72 hours considered to be the critical window for achieving best possible outcomes. One of most important elements of disaster response is having the ability to rapidly deploy Command, Control and Communications (Command Communications) to the most critical nerve center of a disaster event.

A Mobile Command Center is a vehicle that is used to provide emergency communications for command, control and coordination during a disaster or critical incident. Mobile Command Centers are used at every level of emergency management, by virtually every type of response agency, from Federal law enforcement to local public safety for rapid response to critical incidents. Mobile Command Centers also go by other names such as Command Vehicles, Mobile Command Vehicles, Mobile Incident Command Vehicles to name a few. In essence, these names all refer to the same thing, which is a mobile platform, typically a large truck, or large RV type vehicle, that has been outfitted with communications and other equipment to provide “first on scene” rapid response capability.

Many agencies and communities depend on a Mobile Command Center as their primary rapid deployment system for disasters and critical incidents. The general public will

Expensive mobile command center sitting in parking lot

most often see Mobile Command Centers at community special events such as county fairs, concerts, and festivals. Authorities use their vehicles during these events to project a public safety presence and to exercise the vehicle and key personnel to prepare for an actual disaster or critical incident. We may also see these vehicles parked outside of public safety command centers where they are stored in case of a large disaster or critical incident.

While there are circumstances where Mobile Command Centers are effective, there are often challenges when Mobile Command Centers are depended on as the main rapid response system for “first on scene” emergency communications during actual large-scale disaster events. This makes them limited in their capability for immediate disaster response.


In a large-scale disaster, mobile command vehicles are “logistically heavy”

and are often unable to get to the main nerve center within the first

critical hours of disaster response.

Understanding the Disaster Management phases and how they interrelate provides insight into how to most effectively deploy emergency communications for Disaster Response. These phases are: Mitigation, Preparedness, Response and Recovery. While all the elements are important, understanding the difference between Disaster Response and Disaster Recovery makes it easier to understand why Mobile Command Vehicles are better suited for disaster recovery and are not the best option for rapid disaster response.

Simply put, Disaster Response is where we need to “contain” and minimize

the impact of the disaster, whereas Disaster Recovery is where we “restore”

or begin the process of normalizing after the disaster.

Disaster Response involves containment which consists of “real time” actions that occur during or immediately after the disaster event has occurred and Disaster Recovery involves restoration which mostly takes place after the event. When it comes to Command Vehicles and disaster response, it’s about the sequencing of what comes first. To perform in real time, you need the ability to rapidly deliver Command Communications to the main nerve center of the disaster, before or immediately after the event has occurred. Mobile Command Vehicles are ineffective in this regard since during large scale disasters the following often occurs:

1. Critical infrastructure can be lost or significantly compromised. This includes

Washed out roads can prevent access to disaster areas.

roads and access to the most critical nerve centers of the event, which hinders vehicle deployment.

2. Main power and critical network systems can also be greatly compromised or lost. Command Vehicles often depend on complex interdependent systems such as networks and other systems and they need refueling for sustained operations.

3. Most Command Vehicles need a highly trained response team to operate them. This same response team may also be affected by the disaster itself, which can greatly compromise response capability.

Given the above, having a response plan that is heavily dependent on a command

vehicle as the primary means of rapidly deployable communications for a disaster comes with great risk. Mobile Command Vehicles have a well-established history of not being able to be deployed quickly enough in the first critical hours of the worst disasters. A proper disaster response needs to occur within the first hours of the event, and must absolutely occur within the First 72 hours to prevent cascading events which are secondary incidents that worsen and multiply the disasters’ impact due to gaps in the response. In nearly all cases where cascading events occur, it begins with a loss of critical communications, which then leads to a loss of Command and Control.

Given that Mobile Command Centers are highly limited in disaster response they should not be depended for primary rapid disaster response communications. They are an excellent tool for recovery efforts, but have proven time and time again to fall far short in the worst of disasters when it comes to rapid deployment. If you cannot get communications (with certainty) to the main nerve center of the disaster within the first hours of the event, then Command and Control will break down which will worsen the disasters’ initial impact.

What then is the best solution for rapid disaster response communications? The ideal communication system for disaster response is one that can be rapidly deployed (within the first hours), does not depend on any exterior systems or infrastructure and can be operated autonomously for sustained periods under the most austere conditions. This system should also be easy to operate and have the right combination of emergency radio communications systems that will work even when all else fails.

If we desire to have rapid communications deployment capability (with certainty) during

The military is adept at tactical communications

disaster response we need to think Tactical. Tactical Communications are highly deployable communication systems for Command and Control that are best suited for rapid response. Tactical communication systems can be rapidly deployed, are easy to operate and can function under the most austere conditions. Tactical communications systems are used widely by our military and use systems specifically designed for delivering rapid on scene command communications. Tactical Communications Systems are more versatile as they can also be used in both Disaster Response and Disaster Recovery.

The best and most versatile Emergency Responder Communication System for Disaster Response is the SemperComm® Portable Command Center (PCC). The SemperComm® Portable Command Center is a tactical rapid deployment communication system that delivers the mission capability of a Command Vehicle, but it can be deployed in the first hours of any disaster scenario. The SemperComm® PCC provides an affordable and comprehensive solution that is much better aligned to the mission of rapid deployment and disaster response. The SemperComm® Portable Command Center is the “best of breed” of all Portable Command Centers as it can be rapidly deployed in literally any situation you can imagine. Contact SemperComm® to learn how our Portable Command Center can ensure you are prepared for any situation you encounter.

About SemperComm® Systems: SemperComm® Systems is an Emergency Management consulting firm that provides emergency management consulting services and emergency communications products. Please contact us to learn more about how SemperComm® can meet your needs.

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