New Mobile Emergency Operations Center enhances disaster-response capability of Kentucky Air National Guard

By Airman Basic Joshua L. Horton, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

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The Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Civil Engineer Squadron received a state-of-the-art Mobile Emergency Operations Center on Nov. 27, 2012. The $750,000 MEOC will enhance the Louisville, Ky.-based unit’s ability to support civilian emergency responders following a catastrophe in the United States. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Maxwell Rechel)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Airmen at the Kentucky Air National Guard have enhanced their ability to work with civilian agencies following a catastrophe, thanks to a new Mobile Emergency Operations Center.

The state-of-the-art trailer, informally called a MEOC, arrived Nov. 27 and provides an extremely capable command-and-control hub that can be towed to the scene of any domestic disaster, said Senior Master Sgt. Carol Davis, emergency manager for the 123rd Civil Engineer Squadron.

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Kentucky Air National Guard Senior Airman Eric Finley, an emergency manager for the 123rd Civil Engineer Squadron, operates a surveillance camera in the unit’s new Mobile Emergency Operations Center in Louisville, Ky., on Dec. 1, 2012. The $750,000 MEOC features an on-board generator, a full suite of civilian communications capabilities and meeting room space. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Maxwell Rechel)

One of the things that makes the MEOC unique is its ability to tap into the civilian communications infrastructure, Davis explained. Most military equipment is designed to access military computer and communications networks instead.

“The MEOC provides on-scene communications and response capability we did not have previously,” Davis said. “We refer to our MEOC as having ‘.com communications,’ meaning it’s all civilian-capable. Military responders could also use it, but it isn’t equipped with ‘.mil’ communication systems. It is specifically designed for use with civilian agencies, and we would deploy the MEOC at the request of the civilian community. The civilian emergency management officials could then work out of it side-by-side with our military responders.”

The MEOC is 36 feet long by 13 feet wide and is a self-contained system, featuring its own generator capable of supporting 24-hour operations for three to five days. A satellite-based communications suite integrates multiple radio systems, three dedicated phone lines, national and local TV reception and a surveillance camera. The trailer also includes such amenities as a toilet, meeting room, microwave and refrigerator.

The $750,000 MEOC will be based in Louisville, but Davis said it will be shared with other Air Guard units on an as-needed basis.

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Senior Airman Eric Finley, Technical Sgt. Josh Thompson and Staff Sgt. Tim Cummins, all emergency managers for the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Civil Engineer Squadron, train on the video conferencing capabilities of a new Mobile Emergency Operations Center in Louisville, Ky., on Dec. 1, 2012. The $750,000 MEOC will enhance the unit’s ability to support civilian emergency responders following a catastrophe in the United States. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Maxwell Rechel)

“It’s a regional asset that the National Guard Bureau has placed in the state of Kentucky. Ultimately, there will be 30 deployed to various wings throughout the United States.”

Kentucky was one of the first states to get a MEOC because of its proximity to surrounding Federal Emergency Management Agency regions, according to Senior Airman Eric Finley, an emergency management journeyman for the 123rd Civil Engineer Squadron.

“We can take it to any scene, whether it’s a hazmat incident or a natural disaster,” he said.

The first planned use of the MEOC’s capabilities will occur in March during a scheduled Major Accident Response Exercise, Davis said.

“We plan to put the MEOC to the test during the upcoming MARE. Until then, we have some work to do in acquainting our emergency managers and Emergency Operations Center personnel with the MEOC’s capabilities.”

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