Second Quarter 2012
story by JACQUELINE EVANS
photos by STEVEN HERTZOG
Working in a mobile office may sound like a convenient and almost glamorous work setting. And at times this could be true. Our local police force and fire department could share some of the realities of working in this constantly changing and a very high pressure environment.
Imagine tree lined panoramas, leisure jaunts through residential areas, daily exposure to the charming downtown night life, front row seats to major community parades and events while at work. These are some of the perks of spending 95% of your work time in a mobile office. However, In an instant relaxing views turn into torrential downpours and perhaps rescue missions, residential neighborhoods become scenes of accidents and neighborhood disputes, the charming nightlife might include unruly intoxicated civilians. Those highly populated community events become elaborately planned logistical efforts involving back to back shifts and added personal.
Added to the pressures of serving the community they are sworn to protect and defend, the typical high standards and daily misconceptions regarding their office setting alone can become challenging.
The local police force is provided with 30-35 patrol vehicles which are rotated and shared among officers. Each of these mega mobile machines cost at least $51,000. The Crown Vic base price starts at $21,000, Geared with a video system, the MDC touch screen (mobile data computer), ticket writer and printer, light bar, evidence crime scene kit, slide rack and AED heart system are just a few of the patrol vehicle necessities. Sounds luxurious and exciting, right? Wrong! Wearing a safety vest covered by a neck-to-toe polyester uniform, adding a 30 pound gear belt, sitting next to a computer system that runs at up to 110 degrees on a hot summer day, can become anything but luxurious.
There is a reason an officer leaves the patrol car engine running when stepping out of the car, it may not turn on again! Systematic fans run constantly from the interior front seat to the trunk trying to keep the elaborate computer system from overheating and/or completely shutting down. “In a nutshell better vehicles equals’ better law enforcement” explains Sergeant Trent McKinely.
One of the biggest misconceptions is the amount of paper work and data required by both the fire department and police departments. Ever notice a patrol car parked as close to the shade as possible, no they aren’t scanning speeders or talking on their cell phones they are working many times thru their one half hour break (required by the state) logging detail after detail of calls, stops, tickets etc. These details may very well be used in court cases to determine guilt or innocence. I truly am thankful and appreciate the responsibility and pressure of these men and women who keep us safe whether they are working in their car in the shade or not.
The fire department also has a fascinating $1.5 million dollar mega machine built to save lives. The Quint, contains a 100 foot platform a trench digging mechanism and computers linked to necessary community enforcements. The Quint is built to not only put out fires but aid in rope rescue, trench rescue, extraction and structure collapse. Referred to as the tool box on wheels, Alex Wolf considers his truck “the best office space in town”.
At the end of each interview I left with one final question, is their anything the community should know?
Similar to the design of any space, better vehicles has the potential to improve the quality and abilities of our servicemen. The job responsibilities and daily requirements of our local fire and police departments are extensive! They depend heavily on the efficiency of their vehicles. Simply stated, like any organization, the better equipped (and maintained) the mobile office becomes the better and more efficient their performance.