Oil and Gas Firms Donate Response Vehicle to Belmont County Emergency Management Agency

Photo by Jennifer Compston-Strough Belmont County Emergency Management Agency Director Dave Ivan enters his agency’s new emergency response incident command center vehicle Tuesday.

Two local counties are now better equipped to respond to emergencies, thanks to a partnership with the natural gas and oil industry.

The Belmont County Emergency Management Agency held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday to dedicate its new emergency response vehicle — a travel trailer that has been converted and equipped to serve as a mobile incident command center. The new vehicle was acquired at no cost to taxpayers, since the Ohio Oil and Gas Association was able to coordinate an effort by EQT Corp., Ascent Resources and Antero Resources to each pay a share of the $50,000 price tag. Mike Chadsey, marketing director for the OOGA, said the three companies are the primary gas and oil producers operating in Belmont County today and they were happy to help prepare the EMA to respond to any type of emergency.

Dave Ivan, EMA director, said the vehicle replaces a previous unit that had been created from an old school bus. At Ivan’s recommendation, the Belmont County Board of Commissioners voted to donate the bus-based unit valued at up to $10,000 to Monroe County, which previously had no mobile incident command center at all. Ivan also noted that more surrounding counties could benefit as well if the Belmont County EMA is called to assist another county with an emergency.

“I can’t thank you all enough,” Ivan said to the representatives of Ascent, EQT and Antero who were on hand Tuesday morning.

Bryan Minder, director of Belmont County 911, said the vehicle will be a “great asset” to the region.

He added that his agency has plans to install additional radios an communications equipment in the trailer, so that dispatchers could do their work right on site during an emergency. He said some of his staff members already have been training with the Belmont County Sheriff’s Department’s Special Operations Unit to prepare for such work.

“I think it will be very helpful to everyone,” Minder added.

Chadsey commended all the local first responders for the work they do, and he thanked the companies that made the acquisition possible.

“I’m so grateful for your commitment to the communities you operate in,” Chadsey said to Amanda Finn and Greg McCutcheon of Ascent, Aaron Goddard of Antero and Brad Bodkin of EQT. “This will provide them (the EMA and first responders) with the resources they need for anything that comes up in or around Belmont County.”

In addition to the companies, the EMA, the county 911 center and the commissioners, the Belmont County Engineer’s Office was involved in the project, along with the St. Clairsville Area Chamber of Commerce.

Ivan pointed out that his agency has had the vehicle for a few months, and it already has been used at the scenes of two drownings and at an Ohio State Highway Patrol impaired driving checkpoint.

“It could be a pipeline incident, a missing persons case, wherever we need to set up command,” Ivan noted.

Officials touring the trailer Tuesday also pointed out some advantages of using a travel trailer rather than an actual motorized vehicle for a command center. They said because it relies mainly on “two axles and four wheels,” little maintenance will be required. And once it is towed to an incident scene, it can be parked and left in place so that the towing vehicle can be freed up for other work.

In addition to communications equipment, including ham radios for amateur operators who may be able to communicate where other service is unavailable, the new trailer features large-screen TVs to allow officials to monitor broadcasts, computers, a pull-down bunk in case an overnight stay is required, restrooms and a shower, kitchen equipment and a drop-down door that can be used as a patio with a railing. A rubber covering on the floor will make cleanup easy following an incident response in a muddy or otherwise messy area. It also includes a small office for Ivan that was created by Amish craftsmen who removed a queen-size bed and installed a desk and storage area instead.

Ivan estimated that a vehicle actually designed for such response capability — rather than converted and adapted — would cost about $750,000.

“We pray to God that we never need it, but if we do we have it,” Ivan said, noting that local EMAs have tight budgets that won’t accommodate such a purchase. “No one agency can do it by ourselves. We have to rely on our partners to come in and assist.”

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