Field Communications Unit (Field Comm)

zack A

Registered Member
So I threw the idea out to our 911 director about adding a field comm unit as an extension of our 911 center for major incidents, large events, and in the event we were to loose the main and back up centers. To my surprise I was told to put a presentation together.

Obviously we would start small but would like to see what others if your agency uses a field comm unit please share any and all details. I'm looking specifically for any information on equipment carried or installed, response plans, how its requested to respond (auto dispatch or request only), or anything else you would like to provide.

Thanks in advance

Jarred J.

Archive Expert
Silver Supporter
how about an idea of what you want.. ive seen them from 24 foot trailers, to old ambulances with tower trailers, to full on 2 million dollar rv setups to 3 million dollar command posts with 40 + radios with light towers, cameras.. and Ive even seen them in semi trailers...


Gold Supporter
Depends on the size of your area. Take into account population, calls for service per year, number of large events/disasters. I'm in a county of 200k, we have a primary, backup and tertiary locations to work out of if need be, plus if things get that bad we bug out to another county next door. I tried to pitch it to the 911 director here and the need is just not justifiable.
My thoughts/research....
You'll need sat or cell link for 9-1-1 and admin lines. (We have 12 9-1-1 trunks and 35 admin lines).
Radio equipment for each manned position (we have 7 manned 24-7).
Radio connections for each system (we have 4, city fd, city pd, rural fd, sherrif/rural pd).
CAD for each manned position (will need big mobile data link/network).
Logistical support (where/how to store it, who pays for maintenance/updates, etc)
If I recall correctly federal mandate requires testing of any backup equipment quarterly, and not just a quick power up check off power down cycle. Like 24hrs manned.

It's a very overwhelming task to take all of that on. I've been a dispatcher for 20yrs (last 5 supervisor) and only had a need for such a thing 2x...tornadoes 2006 and chemical plant explosion 2004. We handle appx 250k incidents per year (pd,fd,ems) on average.
Again, your area may vary dependent on the factors I first mentioned.

Being a gov't operation, budget is always the issue. Get the money from grants or donations is best.

Hope that helps you get a baseline start. Good luck.

zack A

Registered Member
What we are looking at is a unit to resp to large scale incidents (SUV size) to take the burden off the person working fire dispatch. We've noticed a single major incident can disrupt the day to day operations or causing missed radio traffic being said on another operations channel. The position is multi-role that includes the following plus field training to departments or staff and general department logistics.

1) Respond to major incidents to provide the incident commander with direct access for notifications, CAD entry, o/s unit tracking (staging for EMS Box Alarms or Tanker Task Force Response) without tying up a dedicated dispatcher.
2) Provide access to the various radios systems around our county that we typically run incidents with. We run and maintain our own P25 system but it's been a difficult process to get M/A departments to add another system into a radio that isn't state viper. We also have a county to our east that has a VHF P25 system and this has caused issues in the past with SAR missions on the river with their Sheriffs Office Helicopter because our units were unable to talk with them. Again you run into the fire dispatcher having to be on the phone with that counties dispatcher to relay information.
3) Operate onsite of large public events (5 or 6 a year).

A scaled down version of Charlotte Fire Communications tactical unit is what we are looking at here, response SUV with the ability to talk on anything in the general area but also having the ability to assist any county in Eastern NC. To our knowledge nothing exist east of 95 with these capabilities. We have a fully functional back up center so we aren't looking at this being a means to operate outside of our two centers. Right now we are at absolute max capacity at the main center and can't add positions without overflowing to the back up center which is 15 miles away from the main center.


Gold Supporter
Around our area the Battalion chief cars have those capabilities built in. F250 crew with shell or F450 w/mini rescue.


If you're looking for something tactical and that size then scale things way down. You should need 3-4 mobile/base radios and/or reapeaters (at least 1 multi band), 2-3 cell phones and 1-2 MDCs with full CAD capabilities.

Find a 4WD vehicle at least 1/2 ton or heavier (no new Explorers) on bid or one you can allocate from another county/city agency that's already in inventory. Ideally a Tahoe or crew cab pick up with camper shell would be great, lean towards the truck though. More capable of hauling people and gear associated with extended deployment if need be.

zack A

Registered Member
That is more what I'm looking for, start out small and build the program over the years. Around here nearly all departments are volunteer ranging from 60 calls a year to 4000. Only 1 department runs a Bat Chief were as the other full time departments have chief or asst. chief that will respond. None have any capabilities other then a scene command role. Deployment is another area that I would like to focus one, we actually have 2 EMS Units, 2 Telecommunicators, and around 5 deputies deployed to a county on the coast due to hurricane Florence.

NPS Ranger

Veteran Member
You have to decide your mission, you've mentioned a number of totally different roles for your field comm unit. If it's going to take over if you lose your main & backup 911 center as you said at first, a pickup with camper shell isn't going to fly. If it's going to be an on-scene command center for a single incident, most any chief size vehicle can be outfitted. If you're planning on a comm center to support operations in the field during a disaster, but not act as a 911 PSAP, then you're going to need satellite voice and internet, cross-band repeaters to support agencies coming into your county to assist, workspace and shelter from rain/cold, generator to support equipment and HVAC, etc etc. Usually this has taken the form of a FEMA trailer or bus-type vehicle. Those don't normally respond unless the IC or the county comm director says so. Decide on what you need it to do because one vehicle won't fill all roles, then send out inquiries to neighboring counties or large cities close enough to visit, and adopt features that you like for your own vehicle. My final advice, plan on bigger than your current need, because work will expand to fill the space and if you invest in a vehicle that proves too small, it will become a planter at HQ or be sold off at a loss.

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