When the Kane County Office of Emergency Management set out to add a Humvee to its fleet, it wanted to do so without using taxpayer dollars.
As Assistant Director Phil Spicer put it, that was “our one and only rule.”
The office had been considering getting a high-clearance, four-wheel drive vehicle for search-and-rescue purposes for a while, Spicer said, naming the 2011 blizzard and regular flooding at the same several communities as motivation.
During winter events, OEM Director Don Bryant said, a Humvee can provide transportation for stranded motorists, who likely won’t be dressed for snowmobiles. And during floods, Spicer said, it can go through 30 inches of standing water – capabilities the office’s standard Dodge Ram would not have.
The Kane County Sheriff’s Office’s involvement in the Law Enforcement Support Office, or LESO, furthered the project, Spicer said. LESO originated from the 1997 National Defense Authorization Act, which allows LESO to transfer excess U.S. Department of Defense property to law enforcement agencies across the country.
Through its partnership with the sheriff’s office, emergency management obtained two Humvees – one will be used for spare parts – from the Missouri National Guard Joint Force Headquarters last year, Bryant and Spicer said.
And so began the process of repurposing the Humvee for OEM’s needs.
The vehicle started with “nothing in it other than the four seats,” Spicer said.
Now, it is equipped with such features as emergency lights, communication tools, lockable storage and 12-volt scene lighting. The adjustable light – it pans and tilts – is beneficial because the driver doesn’t have to worry about positioning the vehicle in a certain way to illuminate a scene, Spicer said.
He and Bryant said the office stuck to its rule about using no taxpayer dollars for the project by getting help from volunteers and more than $20,000 in donations.
“That’s an achievement in and of itself,” Bryant said.
While the Humvee will require ongoing costs for fuel and maintenance, Bryant doesn’t expect it will increase his budget because it will share duties with another vehicle in his fleet.
The Humvee is stored at OEM’s vehicle facility at the former sheriff’s complex on Fabyan Parkway, Bryant said.
“It’s probably being treated the best it’s ever been treated,” Spicer said.
Since it made its first public appearance at the Campton Hills Safety Fair in June, the Humvee has participated in such events as the North Aurora Days Emergency Vehicle Lights and Sirens Parade and National Night Out.
But Bryant knows it is a matter of time before an emergency requires its services.
“It’s comforting to know we have it,” he said.