Grant equips town with emergency mobile communications
Shrewsbury – Thanks to the Department of Homeland Security, if there is ever a major emergency in the town, or a neighboring town, the Shrewsbury Fire Department is now equipped with the technical support to handle the situation.
Shrewsbury Fire Department Captain Bill Cummins displayed for the Board of Selectmen at its Feb. 22 meeting a tactical communications package called the Tac-Pac.
The Tac-Pac, which is also called a briefcase command center, will be used for communication and resource tracking, including manpower, at major emergencies such as an anthrax detection at the U.S. Post Office’ s distributio n center on Main Street, as well as in a hostage situation, or an incident where there is an active shooter at large. The Tac-Pac will also be employed to help in natural disasters such as hurricanes, blizzards and earthquakes, and at major fires.
The Tac-Pac comes equipped with a laptop computer, a printer, a scanner and satellite capability to synch up with 99 other forms of mobile communication – cellular telephones, Homeland Security’s command center, or the radio frequencies of other police departments and fire departments. It has already been programmed to communicate with the Shrewsbury Police Department and Emergency Medical System.
Shrewsbury received the Tac- Pac 18 months after Cummins submitted a grant application for the equipment with Homeland Security.
“It had been so long I had forgotten about it,” Cummins said. “I mean, I hadn’t heard anything – not that they received the grant, not that they were considering it, nothing. Then one day they called and said the Tac-Pac would be delivered Dec. 4.”
Valued at $21,000, the Tac-Pac arrived in Shrewsbury equipped with $3,400 worth of software.
Cummins said Shrewsbury is just the second fire or police department in New England to receive the grant – the other is in Connecticut – and there has been a total of only 54 Tac-Pac grants awarded throughout the country.
Cummins said he decided to apply for the Tac-Pac grant for its ability to track personnel and resources.
“We always have had difficulty with that at major events,” Cummins said. “Whiteboards are set up, and firefighters hang tags on them to indicate they’re in a certain location, but that can change and a firefighter can’t always get back to update the board.
“This does away with the whiteboards and the tags,” Cummins said. “We’ll be able to track everybody through their cell phones and either call them or text them or e-mail them. And, if we’re working with the Police Department or the Northborough, Westborough, Grafton and Boylston police and fire departments, will be able to link up with them and all be on the same network.”
Cummins believes the future of the Tac-Pac is limitless.
“It’s cutting-edge technology,” Cummins said. “We’ll be able to take our entire emergency operation to the top of a building, the middle of a lake or through streets blocked because a tornado or a hurricane has ripped through the area. And from that point we’ll be able to set up communications with other responders on the scene.”
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