The generous donation of a mobile critical incident trailer, already nicknamed the M-CIT, from the Thunder Bay District Crimerstoppers to police in the northwestern Ontario city, could help save lives in the future.

"Time is of the essence" when dealing with a hostage situation, a person barricaded in a building, or someone who is suicidal and threatening to harm him or herself or others, said Sylvie Hauth, the acting chief of the Thunder Bay Police Service.

Until now, before the emergency task unit could even get to the scene, the gear had to be collected and loaded into the aging command post vehicle, which is stored elsewhere in the city.

"All the cases contain negotiator equipment and some equipment used by the emergency task unit, and sometimes seconds can make all the difference," Hauth said.

Now, the officers can just hitch up the new utility trailer, which will be parked behind police headquarters on Balmoral Street, and off they go.

The speed at which the new trailer can arrive at an incident has "huge potential to save lives," said Sgt. Rino Belcamino, the tactical commander of the Emergency Task Unit for the force.

The new trailer is important because it helps the "command triangle" be established as soon as possible at a critical incident, he said. That triangle is made up of an incident commander, the tactical unit and negotiators.

"In order for us to make some kind of contact with the subject we're dealing with, negotiators have to have all this kit on scene," he said.

Earlier contact with subject, quicker resolution

"The sooner we make contact the more likely that we're going to be able to negotiate someone coming out," said Belcamino, adding that the vast majority of incidents are resolved through negotiation.

The equipment carried in the trailer includes phones, which can be thrown into a house or building to communicate with someone inside. They're attached to metres and metres of spooled wire, in case police have to park around the corner or down the block.

There are audio probes, which are used if officers think the subject might be dead but "we don't want to necessarily go in and put the officer in jeopardy. We can use a kit like that to see if we can pick up any kind of audio sounds before we send members in," said Belcamino.

Thunder Bay police trailer Sgt. Rino Belcamino

Thunder Bay police Sgt. Rino Belcamino is the tactical commander of the Emergency Task Unit. He's standing with some of the equipment, including a battering ram (foreground), throw phones (white bucket) and a ballistic shield, which is used during critical incidents. (Cathy Alex/CBC)

The van will also carry a battering ram, a ballistic shield which resembles a riot shield but is stronger, and tactical vests "which [have] more attachments and can withstand higher ballistic rating because the tactical officers are put in a higher degree of jeopardy."

Having such vital equipment stored in one place and ready to go at a moment's notice gives police another valuable, efficient tool in these situations, said Belcamino

Both he and Hauth expressed how grateful they are to Crimestoppers for the generous donation, pointing out it's unusual for the police force to get such a large gift.