Supporting Emergency Services with Mobile Communication

Duplin Emergency Communication Alliance is dedicated to ensuring that emergency services can communicate. To that end, our Eastern North Carolina team is working to build a mobile communication vehicle. Learn more about our MECU by clicking here.


Duplin Emergency Communication Alliance, Inc. (DECA)


DECA began at the encouragement of North Carolina Area 4 Manager, Jerry Jones, KF4ASE. Jerry approached Robert Steen, N7ZKO, expressing concern that there was no active Amateur Radio establishment within Duplin County. Further, he encouraged Robert to consider assuming reins as the Duplin County Emergency Coordinator (EC) for Amateur Radio. Robert agreed to unpack his gear from storage and attempt to contact local HAMS interested in developing an Amateur Radio organization in Duplin County. On 21 March 2015, “We had the grand total of four members,” Robert said.

Once again, Jerry convinced these four to consider operating a station in conjunction with a joint North Carolina State and Duplin County joint disaster training exercise, Vigilant Guard. Jerry obviously had high hopes that they could pull this off! By encouraging four members of the Onslow County Amateur Radio Club to assist, this new group of Amateur Radio operators managed to provide enough equipment and the manpower to establish a fully operating station including vhf, uhf, hf and a WINLink setup. All became fully operational on the 24th of March, prepared to send traffic within two hours, amazing everyone concerned from the State level down through the Duplin County Office of Emergency Operations, according to Steen. The group clearly demonstrated that support across counties and other areas within Amateur Radio communities does work!


Going Mobile

Going Mobile
Shortly thereafter, the four members of the Onslow Club and Area 4 Manager Jerry joined hands with the four Amateurs in Duplin County to form Duplin Emergency Communication Alliance, Inc. (DECA). At the initial meeting of this new organization and after extensive discussion between the charter members with their vast emergency communication experiences, a plan of attack was developed that outlined exactly where we should focus our attention. Given the huge geographical dimensions of NC Area 4, and the considerable contribution of assets (equipment and personnel) that would be required to provide the required level of communication support, a fully equipped mobile unit would best serve this area. In addition, as a fully qualified Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) and Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service organization (RACES), such a unit could be called upon by virtually any level of government or by the American Red Cross per the existing Memos of Understanding (MOU) between Amateur Radio and those organizations. A mobile unit with a comprehensive compliment of equipment that may be required along with meeting the new interoperability requirements of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) was essential.
Members concluded that the only way they would be able to assemble such a unit would be to organize the new club into a charitable body under the provisions of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) code of 501 (c) (3). Within five weeks, DECA managed to obtain an EIN, register with the North Carolina Secretary of State as a Charitable Corporation and received its certificate of charitable status from the IRS-- not too bad for a fledgling group of serious minded individuals who recognized a need and moved forward. Maybe they weren’t quite “Amateurs” after all.

Designing a Mobile Unit

Next began the focus of formally defining the numerous equipment requirements and capabilities for this unit, outlining what would be required to meet the challenges perceived down the road, and determining how best to present a plan to the many agencies that would benefit from a unit that would meet every conceivable emergency communication requirement. It was recognized that the plan needed to be complete in its format and easily perceived as a strong viable asset. This would draw the support and contributions of agencies, philanthropies, corporations, and individuals. This was not an easy task.

Cost represented a major component of this venture. The vehicle would necessarily need to be of sufficient capacity to incorporate the numerous pieces of equipment, including radios, power supplies, large-scale monitors, interface equipment, computers, chairs at the three operating stations, power sources and related interfaces, lighting, and storage space. External power source (generator) would require a trailer, so the unit itself needed to be capable of towing a trailer containing the generator, extra fuel, spare tires and incidental supplies. In addition, four wheel drive capability would be a desirable while providing all-terrain mobility. And finally, in anticipation that this unit could be deployed anywhere in the United States and overseas in support of disaster operations, the unit needs to be durable enough to accommodate lengthy road trips and properly sized to fit into cargo aircraft in the event of overseas deployment.

It was determined that a used medium duty fire rescue vehicle would meet all our perceived requirements. Conversion of this unit would be less expensive than attempting to acquire a unit built especially for our target goals. Standards were established for the vehicle, addressing issues such as mileage, wear and tear, successful testing of engine, transmission, drive train, transfer case and braking system that pass stringent tests before we would accept the unit.

Costing the equipment

Our next major consideration was the estimated cost to convert the vehicle to meet our equipment and operational criteria. This step required an extensive study of all anticipated costs for each and every piece of equipment projected. At the end of all the steps listed, additional costs estimated at six percent of the total were calculated in an attempt to cover any unforeseen expenses such as labor overruns, operating costs. Also, costs associated with the acquisition of all components were included.

Packaging the project

The final task was probably the most critical. How to package our project so that it would be favorably considered as a worthy investment by those entities who recognized the need and benefits. Certainly government agencies such as our local Office of Emergency Services, State, Federal emergency response agencies and the American Red Cross recognize the need. But, funding would come from other sources such as service organizations, philanthropies, local government grants, and private sources.
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