MAC Emergency Vehicle Steals the Show


Rick Langenberg

The big attraction at the 77th annual Bronc Day in Green Mountain Falls last Saturday wasn’t necessarily any signature float or colorful parade outfit.

Instead, the surprising festival star, commanding a huge high tech presence and assuming a large visible area near the parade starting line, was the $250,000-plus Mobile Advanced Communications (MAC) vehicle. Throughout the day, the MAC was jammed with visitors who toured the facility.

The MAC, launched by the El Paso County Information Technology Department and Fleet Services, and part of the El Paso County Office of Emergency Management, is celebrating its early debut in style. “It is really about communicating with each other,” said Nicole McMahon, a member of the El Paso County IT Department and the MAC team.

The MAC vehicle is expected to play a big role in assisting and coordinating communications during major disasters, especially in areas such as Green Mountain Falls and Teller County, where cellular phone service and radio technology is limited. The MAC, with its generators, can even provide back-up powers for small towns like GMF. In addition, the vehicle can serves as a key resource for disaster evacuees.

Although the MAC hasn’t been officially deployed, the huge vehicle, with antennas and towers that extend more than several hundred feet above he ground, has become a major attraction at local festivals such as Bronc Day. Unfortunately, with the winding curves on Ute Pass Avenue, the MAC couldn’t quite participate in Saturday’s parade. Nevertheless, the vehicle, which can easily fit about 10 people and can actually travel more than 25 mile per hour, became a big draw for the Bronc Day crowd, with some festival-goers wondering if the town got invaded by a sophisticated force or was trying a new way to broadcast its parade.

Most reveled in the MAC wonder toys, including its highly advanced phones, two Dish satellite networks, large scale computer displays, Apple TV outlets, video surveillance cameras, a tall Barron weather antenna, multiple ports and connections for laptop computers, press feeds for media coverage, thermal radar imaging, super sophisticated TV broadcasting capabilities, special radios and more. It was equipped to establish emergency connections for an entire area.

The MAC was started in the wake of the Waldo Canyon fires and floods and the Black Forest blaze. “What we found was that a lot of agencies worked independently of each other. This brings everyone together,” said McMahon. “We can communicate much better with this vehicle. We want to help any way we can.”

Plus, the MAC facilitates communications in remote areas, where typical services aren’t that good.

A MAC mission can be deployed with only four people.

The MAC also connects with a smaller vehicle that can be used to access rugged terrain and features many technological features of its own.

Probably the most impressive features the Bronc Day crowd enjoyed included its video features that could identify anyone in the festival area (whether they wanted to be spotted or not) and its detailed mapping and weather detection capabilities.

With the MAC, there won’t be any fear of faulty weather reports, or anyone getting lost in a disaster area.

The vehicle, which culminates a year project, hasn’t been used yet for any actuAal disaster. But the emergency communications vehicle is now ready for action.