05/25/2005

Communications Trucks Will Soon Blanket the Ohio

CHILLICOTHE, Ohio - Within the next month, the first of 11 mobile communications trucks will be stationed around Ohio to assist law enforcement agencies during emergencies.

The diesel-powered trucks each cost $440,000. They were paid for with federal Homeland Security Act grants.

The vehicles are expected to help police and other officials communicate and better respond to flooding, ice storms, tornadoes, major crashes, terrorist attacks or other disasters.

They give law-enforcement officials the ability to access the Internet, fax, copy, print digital photographs and, maybe most important, put officials from across the state on the same radio frequencies so they can easily communicate. There is a conference room in the truck, and space for a crime lab.

The first 9-ton truck will be based in Ross County and should be ready to work by June 6.

"You're looking at the cutting edge of technology sitting right here," Ross County Sheriff Ron Nichols said Friday as law enforcement agencies unveiled the trucks.

The 10 other trucks are expected to be operating by the end of the year. Once they are in place, nearly 97 percent of Ohio's population will be within 50 miles of a truck, officials said.

During disasters, counties now go through the Emergency Management Agency for assistance, and must navigate red tape to get it. With the new trucks, counties can call their truck's base and expect help within an hour or two - saving what could be precious time.

"I can't stress enough the value of something like this regionally," said Nancy Dragani, director of Ohio's EMA.

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