New District Coordinator Response Vehicles
Each year, TDEM personnel drive upwards of 1 million miles across the state, responding to state and local emergencies and disasters as well as providing support and assistance for state agencies and local governments with their emergency planning, training and exercises. And over the years, TDEM has continued to develop specialized vehicles to better deliver that support and response. The latest vehicle being deployed by TDEM Field Response staff is the Tahoe 4x4 Special Service Vehicle.
During the 2012-2013 state biennium, TDEM received no funding for new vehicles and operated a fleet that included a variety of vehicles. During this time, the primary field response vehicles driven by district coordinators was the Ford Expedition, which have been retrofitted with communications and first aid equipment. As these vehicles reach their end of use, they will be replaced with the new, purpose-built Tahoes.
The Tahoes come from the factory as a law enforcement package vehicle. The new TDEM Field Response Tahoes are equipped with four-wheel drive and towing capabilities along with electronics and communications consoles, cellular boosters and mobile data network capability, dual batteries, AC/DC 1200 amp converters, satellite radio/phones along with emergency lights and sirens. During the 83rd Texas Legislative Session, TDEM field staff were designated emergency responders, which gives them the statutory capability to respond to certain emergencies with flashing lights and sirens.
All Field Response vehicles including the new Tahoes are equipped with automatic external defibrillators (AEDs). TDEM District Coordinators are certified to use and train others how to administer CPR and to use the AEDs. The vehicles also have basic life support (BLS) equipment on board. TDEM has begun training and certifying field response staff along with DPS commissioned personnel to be Emergency Care Attendants (ECAs), which will give them the credentials and skills to use the BLS gear.
The Tahoes also are fitted with a safety cage/Texas Highway Patrol-style equipment box. None of the current or previous TDEM vehicles have had this feature. It allows the district coordinators to organize and store their array of equipment in a safe and secure manner.
Because of the nature of the specific design of the vehicles and the wide variety of potential situations and environments they are deployed, all district coordinators go through a “high profile” four wheel drive vehicle training course at the DPS facility in Florence, where they learn to drive these specialized vehicles through a number of situations and conditions.