Bullfrog transformation revitalizes commitment to serve Arizona

Bullfrog transformation revitalizes commitment to serve Arizona

Mobile Emergency Operations and Communications Center

In Emergency Management, technical communications is the foundation to providing responsive and reliable information transfer during emergencies and disasters. A key resource and driving force in ensuring high-quality communications in complex disaster situations throughout Arizona is the Department of Emergency and Military Affairs’ (DEMA) Mobile Emergency Operations and Communications Center. Known as the “Bullfrog,” the Mobile Emergency Operations and Communications Center ensures that communications are accessible at any time and any place during an environmental disaster or crisis.

Now in its 12th year of contributing to Arizona’s safety, the Bullfrog, a longtime emergency response asset to DEMA, recently received a well-deserved makeover with a more modern and ready-to-serve appearance. After more than a decade of traveling Arizona’s sun-beaten roads to ensure communications support in various northern, central, and southern communities, it was time to rejuvenate the Bullfrog. The Bullfrog’s newly designed vinyl wrap visually embodies and pushes forward the commitment of accessibility to emergency operations and communications throughout the state during disasters.

Though the Bullfrog now has a sleeker and smoother look, its history and dedication to service throughout the years is proof that it is much more than a Kodak moment. In fact, the Bullfrog can be considered the centerpiece of mobile communications throughout the state. Rolling out in 2004, the Bullfrog provided support to its first major disaster in 2005 during post-Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. When Hurricane Katrina evacuation refugees were transported for aid and assistance to the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the Bullfrog provided communications, radio, and wireless internet to relief staff. Given its eye-catching appearance, the Bullfrog served as the backdrop for then Governor Janet Napolitano in several media addresses. Most notable to Arizona’s emergency crisis history, the Bullfrog responded during the 2010 Wenden Flooding. Due to the level of devastation in Wenden, the cell towers signal weakened and at times provided no coverage. The sheriff’s department communications were also severely affected. Fortunately, the Bullfrog was able to provide the mobile communications support needed for emergency responders and government officials to continue relief operations.   

On the exterior, the Bullfrog boasts a stable and interoperable pneumatic radio mast that can reach up to 20 miles. This capacity is essential to reaching radios in farther distances that might experience an emergency situation, such as a train derailment in a rural, desert landscape. Radio frequencies can also tap into stations listened to by the general public, which allows for information to be shared in a more accessible manner. In 2004, DEMA and the Arizona Public Service (APS) partnered and created the Arizona Emergency Operations Center Network. The Network allows the Bullfrog to reach a higher level of information sharing by utilizing APS’ 800 MHZ statewide system. 

The Bullfrog also provides high speed internet and wireless laptop connectivity. Through this resource, staff can connect online and share vital emergency information instantly. Emergency responders and planners, such as DEMA officials, police officers, fire fighters, and even the Governor, can meet inside the Bullfrog. A planning area is fully-equipped with a television screen to display news, weather reports, and other critical pieces of information during an emergency. The Bullfrog allows for face-to-face discussion and planning that is critical when creating incident action plans during a crisis. For longer deployments that require officials to stay in a devastated area for prolonged periods of time, the Bullfrog offers space to sleep and the capacity to stay out in the field for up to a week.

The DEMA communications team debuted the mobile center for its first deployment since its makeover at the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station’s annual emergency siren testing in early November. Being a resource that is communications and community-embedded, the Bullfrog will also be present during a number of community outreach events, radio conferences, and safety fairs throughout the State. Morgan Hoaglin, Communications Supervisor at DEMA, captures the mission of the Bullfrog and the Department, as he shares, “We are not allowed to fail. We have redundant ways to make communications happen. No matter what.”