LOS ALAMITOS, Calif. – The Los Angeles District will be well prepared for its next disaster response with the recent acquisition of one of the Corps’ newest Emergency Command and Control Vehicles.
The ECCV, built on an International truck chassis, is a 47-foot vehicle designed to serve as a temporary mobile command post. It provides 11 work stations that each have a computer jack, 110- and 12-volt power sockets, and a phone that has cell, Voice over Internet Protocol and satellite capabilities. There is also onboard Wi-Fi capability to provide access for additional computers, and a rear compartment that houses a conference table, video camera and large screen TV for video conferencing.
“The old RRVs were extremely functional in their time,” said Alex Watt, referring to the 12-year old Response and Recovery Vehicle that served as the District’s previous emergency command vehicle. “But these are state-of-the-art. I’m so glad the Corps went this route with the truck chassis, because where we’re going is not just into town. We have to be able to get into and out of rough situations.”
Watt, a rehired annuitant and one of three District employees licensed to drive the ECCV, is a classic car enthusiast. He speaks that language when he describes the new vehicle’s capabilities.
“The old RRV was thirty-seven feet long and powered by a seven-and-a-half liter diesel engine,” Watt said. “It was similar to a roach-coach or UPS van. It was woefully underpowered for our needs and would have trouble getting over a two-by-four without a running start. This one is powered by an International six-cylinder, twelve-and-a-half liter twin turbo engine and an Allison six-speed automatic transmission. It’s the second-most powerful engine International makes.”
Sgt. Maj. Jeffery Koontz worked in the previous RRV when he deployed to hurricanes Rita and Katrina. He is another of the drivers qualified to operate the ECCV, and he echoed Watt’s comments.
“In comparison, the old vehicle couldn’t get out of its own way,” Koontz said. “The ease of setup with the new ECCV is a drastic improvement. The satellite uplink is fully operational in minutes, not to mention the operational staff reduction for the new equipment. You know, ‘Faster, smarter, better.’”
When compact and travelling, the ECCV sports a narrow interior hallway from front to back. When deployed and operational, the vehicle becomes an emergency response “Transformer,” extending leveling pads, four side-compartments, a satellite dish and radio antennas, emergency floodlights and, of course, the Corps flag. The process is a two-man (one outside for safety purposes), 15-minute evolution that allows responders near-immediate access to the equipment and capabilities necessary to conduct response and recovery operations in a disaster environment.
The vehicle has rearview and sideview cameras to eliminate blind spots, and a CB-radio to keep up with current traffic and weather conditions. In addition, a “trucker’s GPS” unit provides the driver with information about the height of upcoming underpasses, tunnels and bridges, weight capacities and curves, and other physical restrictions that could impact the vehicle’s ability to traverse roads and highways.
“I have been a driver for Emergency Operations since 2001, when the request went out for people who would like to drive the Emergency Response Vehicle,” Watt said. “As I love driving I immediately volunteered, and four of us went through a two-week training course learning to drive tractor trailers. EM is always looking for additional drivers and currently two other members of the ECCV team are working to obtain their commercial driving licenses.”
According to the Corps’ website, ECCVs provide an expedient tactical operations and communications platform for first responders where there are no available facilities or communications to support response operations. Each ECCV has onboard radio, interagency voice interoperability, satellite and cellular capabilities that deliver both voice and data communications. It is totally self-contained for up to 72 continuous hours with onboard fuel before additional fuel or alternative shore power is required.
The ECCV is about 13.5 feet high and 8.5 feet wide (about 15 feet with the side compartments extended) and weighs 44,000 pounds. A class 'B' Commercial Driver License with air brakes endorsement is required to drive the ECCV.
The Corps has 15 of the new ECCVs located across the continental United States. Mobile District maintains six, Sacramento District three, and Baltimore, Ft. Worth, Los Angeles, Nashville, Portland, Ore. and St. Louis districts one each.