Magen David Adom unveiled a multi-million dollar command truck on Sunday designed to direct rescue operations on the most difficult terrain and during cellular network failure.
In an event at the Old Train Station in Tel Aviv, the ambulance service said the creation of the tractor trailer- sized command truck was motivated by the Mt. Carmel forest fire in 2010. During the fire, cellular networks were either too weak for emergency communications, or they crashed because of too much traffic, creating serious communications issues for rescuers.
“It was what made us think about the future,” MDA special projects manager Assi Dvilanski said.
Dvilanski, who supervised the construction of the truck, officially called the “National Mobile Command and Control Vehicle,” said it is the most technologically advanced command vehicle in the world.
Inside the command truck, as many as five dispatchers and 18 officials can observe more than two dozen flat-screen computers and TVs, which display dispatch information and the location of every ambulance in Israel. At the truck’s nerve center, a single dispatcher can control six different monitors and use nine different phones and radios, all arrayed neatly on a desk and connected to the police and rescue networks.
Despite the truck’s hi-tech devices – from a portable tablet computer to a fully equipped videoconferencing system – the most important facet of the truck is perhaps less flashy, Dvilanski said.
The truck’s dispatchers can connect directly into the 101 phone system, he explained. It is the first time in the history of Israel – and, to Dvilanski’s knowledge, the world – that a dispatch center on wheels can connect to the 101 system. This capability is important because it allows the truck to serve as a twelfth dispatch center for MDA or as a full backup, in case one of MDA’s centers goes down.
In addition to the 101 system, the truck can tap into the three major cellular networks and aggregate them. For example, if each of the networks was only working at 10 percent of its capacity, the vehicle could combine those signals to yield a 30 percent signal. The truck is also equipped with satellite phones, in the event that cell networks and landlines are unavailable.
To assist rescuers working over a large area, the truck also has a camera affixed to a mast that can reach a height of 19 meters. The camera can be controlled and viewed by any commander’s smart phone.
At 16 m. long and 4 m. wide, with a large satellite dish and extendable canopy, the new command center appears massive and complex. Yet it only takes about 20 minutes to set up, which means it can be installed and broken down quickly if, say, the wind changes during a fire.
In addition to fires, MDA officials said this truck can be used in many different emergencies, from earthquakes to train derailments to the aftermath of a war. In these cases, “we will still be able to have all the emergency calls come into the vehicle,” Dvilanski said. The vehicle could also be useful in assisting major sporting events or funerals.
The vehicle even has refrigerators so that rescue coordinators can stay hydrated, though Dvilanski noted that any drinks will have to be consumed outside.