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Henry County Purchases New Vehicles Used in Hostage Situations and Other Emergencies |  News

McDONOUGH — Henry County Public Safety Services received approval on Tuesday to replace two command vehicles in their fleet.

The vehicles, which act as mobile command centers, are used during emergencies such as fires, severe weather, hostage situations, etc. They serve as a place of meeting and communication when several organizations are involved in emergency situations.

Fire Chief Jonathan Burnette explained that the two mobile centers Public Safety currently owns are 2005 models built on VR-style frames, which was common practice in the early 2000s but is now obsolete. The mobile center used by Henry County Police recently caught fire and is completely out of service.

“Both are now obsolete, and they weren’t built to be upgraded and several parts are failing,” Burnette said.

One vehicle will be shared between the Henry County Emergency Management Agency, Henry County Police and Henry County Fire Departments.

The second will be used by the E911 center to serve as an emergency location. It will also be available for use by other jurisdictions with which the county has emergency agreements.

Henry County Police Chief Mark Amermann said while he hopes they never have to use the command vehicles, they are both needed and a worthwhile investment for the county. He noted that if the centers are needed, it means there is a significant emergency that often unfolds over several days.

“It’s the vehicle for the next 20 years,” he said. “They can be constantly upgraded with new radios, computers and cameras; it’s huge and that’s what we need.

Commissioner Vivian Thomas asked why Amermann and Burnette were not looking for a lease option rather than buying outright.

She suggested building command centers in fire stations rather than using mobile vehicles or possibly using drones to monitor situations.

The two explained that in the event of an emergency, they must be on hand to report and communicate with their home base.

“Mobile allows you to be on the spot with real-time information coming to you,” Amermann said. “You can handle emergencies offsite, but that complicates the situation.”

He added that such vehicles protect staff from inclement weather and allow decision makers to be in one place at a time.

And while drones are useful, they’re impractical, especially in severe weather.

The county’s plan is to purchase both vehicles using funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. County Executive Cherie Matthews explained that if the county opts for leasing, funds to pay for the vehicles will have to come from the general fund rather than ARPA funds. She added that the Board of Commissioners had previously said it wanted ARPA money to be used for general county purposes.

Commissioner Johnny Wilson said that in addition to purchasing the new command vehicles, the county should consider making the replacement of public safety vehicles a priority, having Fleet Services take inventory of what is necessary, such as fire engines, ambulances and patrol cars.

Fleet Services Manager Jody Swords said the average age of the county’s fleet is 14, noting some are between 16 and 20, many with outdated parts.

The BOC unanimously approved the request for $2.7 million. Vehicles will be purchased from Ten-8 Fire and Safety Equipment in Forsyth.

It is currently unclear whether the county intends to allocate additional ARPA funds to the public safety cluster for fleet updates.

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