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Why you need a project manager for your mobile command center purchase

A mobile command center is one of the most significant equipment purchases a public safety agency can make


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Why you need a project manager for your mobile command center purchase

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By Joseph J. Kolb, P1 Contributor 

In the fog and chaos of a critical incident such as an active shooter, terrorist attack or natural disaster, the immediate establishment of on-scene incident command is vital for saving lives and mitigating damage to property.

Purchasing a mobile command center is a costly and time-consuming endeavor. Choosing the right vehicle and equipment, while staying within your agency or grant budget, is a daunting task.

Appointing a project manager whose sole responsibilities are associated with the purchasing process of the mobile unit can save your jurisdiction valuable time and money. (Photo/Courtesy)
Appointing a project manager whose sole responsibilities are associated with the purchasing process of the mobile unit can save your jurisdiction valuable time and money. (Photo/Courtesy)

Appointing a project manager whose sole responsibilities are associated with the purchasing process of the mobile unit can save your jurisdiction valuable time and money.

Officials need to determine whether this will be a full-time, part-time or contract position and provide a job description with quantifiable duties, expectations and a timetable to accomplish specific goal.

The right candidate will possess the following skill set:

1. Understand the purpose of a mobile command unit

First and foremost, the individual needs to be familiar with the purpose of a mobile command unit during a critical incident. Ideally, they will already be part of the Office of Emergency Management for your jurisdiction where they will be familiar with the agencies, purchasing and political dynamics. Their role/job description would have to be redefined during the purchasing process, where they are exclusively dedicated to the purpose of mobile command purchasing program manager.

2. Have completed coursework in incident management

If your agency opts to hire a program manager, they should have completed applicable course work in incident management through the Emergency Management Institute. The majority of these courses are online.

3.  Be budget savvy

The program manager should know where to identify existing and potential revenue sources such as grants and be able to develop a budget with the jurisdiction’s finance office.

4. Have excellent communication skills

The project manager has to communicate with multiple decision-makers through the entire process. Unilateral decisions when purchasing an item as significant as a mobile command center will be financially and professionally costly.

5. Know how to negotiate

The right candidate must be a good negotiator. They must be able to compare prices and don’t be afraid to haggle. This is not a job for a meek personality.

Size, Cost Matters

Determine your jurisdiction’s needs for a mobile unit through past incidents and a risk and threat assessment.

Choices can range from a converted ambulance all the way to a motor home or semi-tractor trailer. Determine what the unit will be used for such as an Incident Command Center, a Communications Center, HAZMAT, Bomb Squad or DUI testing. Be cognizant of maintenance and repair costs and who is qualified in your jurisdiction to do this. Don’t skimp on warranties.

Consider your funding streams and budget. Do you need a new unit, or can you convert an existing vehicle? Consider how you will fund the equipment required.

Transfer of Responsibility

Once the unit is purchased, the program manager must coordinate unit orientation and training, as well as transfer of responsibility to the applicable agency official who will actually be responsible for the unit.

The program manager can’t leave a box of manuals on a desk and expect effective utilization of the unit by operational stakeholders and a jurisdiction should never relieve a program manger from their contract until this occurs.

Millions of dollars of equipment and vehicles sit idle in agency garages and vehicle yards simply because nobody knows how to use it. This is a waste of funds and can compromise effective operations and public safety

If your jurisdiction is contemplating a large ticket item like a mobile command unit, it will save time and money if you dedicate a program manager to get the job done in an efficient and timely fashion.


About the Author
Joseph J. Kolb, MA, is the executive director for the Southwest Gang Information Center, master instructor for the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy and instructor in the Criminal Justice program at Western New Mexico University.

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