By Thea Skinner
21st Space Wing Public Affairs
A crucial emergency responder – the Mobile Emergency Operations Center, known as MEOC, has been added to the Peterson Air Force Base incident response team. The bus-type vehicle provides on-site communication capabilities during a crisis response on and off the installation.
Peterson is one of five AF bases to own a MEOC. The others are McGuire AFB , N.J.; Hurlburt Field, Fla.; Cannon AFB, N.M.; and Buckley AFB, Colo.
If a plane crashes off the installation, the incident commander may request to position the MEOC along with other responders as additional support at an incident command post, said Tech. Sgt. Michael Henderlong, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron.
Although no MEOCs have been utilized in actual responses to incidents, the 21st CES periodically performs training in setting-up the MEOC at the U.S. Air Force Academy in northern Colorado Springs. The Peterson and Buckley AFB’s MEOCs will be used during a Vigilant Front Range exercise conducted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in May.
“The purpose (of the exercise) is to test the interoperability between agencies,” Sergeant Henderlong said. “(The MEOC) is a communications platform.”
Interoperability refers to the ability of the Peterson AFB incident response system including personnel, equipment, and the encompassing Emergency Operations Center, also known as EOC, to work with counterparts at the city and county-level emergency centers.
The corresponding Peterson EOC acts as a communication hub in emergencies. Several unit workstations are represented at the center. Operators at the EOC access E-Collab, an online chat area that provides communication between first responder agencies and senior commanders. The EOC, formerly known as the Disaster Control Group, relocated to the 21st CES Readiness facility at building 1324 in December 2008.
“(The MEOC) is the heartbeat of the function,” said Senior Airman Justin Alexander, 21st CES. “When we arrive on scene, we have the ability to create our own radio network.”
Along with radio access to state mutual aid, the MEOC provides other resources to responders including five workstations inside the vehicle, an outside camera with zoom capabilities, and an electronic GPS to map coordinates. The MEOC also collects local weather station data used to determine the path of smoke within a 25-foot radius during a fire, according to Sergeant Henderlong.
“The radio gives us statewide access to civilian agencies. The state of Colorado is using 800 megahertz and the nation is trying to go to that level,” Sergeant Henderlong said.
Several upgrades need to be made to the MEOC to give it a full complement of capabilities. Among these upgrades are Internet capabilities and a permanent radio set-up with radio frequencies that state mutual aid channels use.
The MEOC is a product of the Individual Applicant Worksheets Homeland Security Presidential Directive- 5, known as HSPD 5. In order for the U.S. Air Force to be compliant with HSPD5 and the National Incident Management System, the Air Force created the five MEOCs.
Before the MEOC came to the Air Force bases, personnel performed mobile communication from the back of trucks or sport utility vehicles with limited radio frequencies.