Will you support independent, non-partisan journalism?
Become a champion of local news and unlock additional benefits as a LebTown member, like exclusive members-only emails, access to comments, invitations to members-only events, and more.
Make an impact. Cancel anytime.
Already a member? Login here
When Mark Sallada first became a police officer, one of the worst duties he had was the job of ordering equipment.
“It was a nightmare to order a police car,” said Sallada. “I had to order lights from one guy, graphics from one guy, and order a radio from another guy. It was a mess.”
Sallada said he couldn’t believe there were no companies that could assemble an entire emergency vehicle at one location. When he would ask, the answer to that question was always, “Nope.”
“So I said, ‘Well, there’s gonna be because I am going to start a business,’ and that’s how I started my business,” he said. “I started a business with a drive and the entrepreneurship to say this is what we’re going to do and how we’re going to do it.”
Fifteen years later, 911 Rapid Response, located in the 700 block of West Main Street in Annville, is the only one-stop shop of its kind for first responders, according to Sallada. Sallada worked 7 1/2 years as a police officer in Lower Swatara Township and 7 1/2 years as a part-time canine officer in Highspire Borough before leaving law enforcement in September 2021 to run his business full-time.
“Here’s the thing, we’re the only company like this in the world, there’s no other company that you can go from one sole company, that you can buy a gun, get graphics done, get a vehicle built, a fire truck built – there’s no other company like that in the world,” said Sallada. “There’s companies out there that build emergency vehicles or police cars and have a graphics department, there’s companies out there that have mixes, but no other company that has everything to this size.”
To be an all-encompassing shop, Rapid Response has four divisions to accomplish its mission.
The most visible is Homeland Outfitters, which is the retail store that sells firearms and other tactical gear and contains a three-lane, 30-yard gun range.
“It costs $19 an hour to rent the range, and it is busy most weekends,” said Sallada.
To the rear of the retail store is the company’s 911 Just Box-It, which outfits emergency vehicles with everything from lights and sirens to pump apparatus to radio communication systems. Each bay was filled with a new vehicle, usually purchased through a business relationship with nearby vehicle dealership Klick Lewis.
“I can’t buy the vehicles since they have to be bought by a government entity, but I provide a quote to the customer for the lights and other gear and … the customer then makes the purchase once the vehicle has been built,” said Sallada.
This department outfits about 400 vehicles a year, he added.
“We work with thousands of municipalities from here to Hawaii,” said Sallada. “I’d like to get to five (hundred) by the end of next year, but I am going to have to hire about eight more people to do that. The demand is there, and I’m going to have to ramp that up a little bit.”
911 Rapid Response, which recently added its 47th employee to meet demand, does not have any problems finding workers to hire.
“I have more people to hire and there are people who want to come work for us,” said Sallada. “It’s kind of neat because we have this pool of good clients and good people who want to come work for you. They work in an air-conditioned environment, we make breakfast for them once a month — not go out for breakfast, my wife (Christy) makes it and brings it in — and we have lunches a couple of times a month. We do a lot of things as a company to interact with our employees.”
One of the company perks was a recent event for $5 that contained a plate full of pierogies, a hamburger, and BBQ, said Sallada. Proceeds from that luncheon raised $500 for Toys for Tots. (A box full of toys with the Toys for Tots logo sat near the front of the retail store by the cash register, waiting to be delivered to children this Christmas.)
“People like to be involved with companies that do this kind of stuff,” said Sallada. “They feel good about it, it is a way for them to give back. They go home at the end of the day and are proud to work for Rapid Response.”
The company’s Mark.It Graphics department provides design, printing and installation services for the outfitted vehicles. Other in-house graphic design services include signage, print and embroidery to further spread a department’s brand, logos and graphic designs within their departments.
The Vengeant Apparatus division is where the recent expansion occurred with the construction of a new $2.5 million, 17,000-square-foot state-of-the-art fabrication shop. This shop can accommodate the construction of 40 emergency vehicles per year.
“We needed a bigger fab shop and we put in a new paint booth as well,” said Sallada. “This cuts down on production time now that we have the painting facilities in house.”
One of Sallada’s proudest creations is his patented bed rail system, which allows emergency lights to be embedded within the bed rail of a vehicle instead of on the outside.
“When a vehicle has to go into the brush or rough terrain, the lights can be ripped off when they’re located on the outside of the vehicle,” said Sallada. “That’s eliminated by embedding the lights in the bed rail.”
On the second floor of the fabrication shop is the company’s new three-bedroom suite, slated to open by the end of January. Here, fire company personnel will have a place to stay when not receiving on-site training on their new equipment.
The suite contains a kitchen, a living room — that has a large window that looks out into the garage — full bathroom, laundry facilities and a firepole … in case a guest decides to exit the suite in a hurry rather than using the nearby steps.
“We ordered firehouse (bedroom) furniture so it looks cool,” said Sallada. “When you buy a fire truck, you are here generally for two or three days. So they will have a place to lounge out, enjoy their evenings, you know, and have the opportunity to look out into the garage.”
Sallada said he has both a short- and long-term vision for the future direction of his company.
He added that expansion might include two new locations, a second in Pennsylvania and one outside of the commonwealth. Expansion goals for the Annville location include building larger fire apparatus from larger trucks and adding more work bays over the next few years.
“I say this every year, but this is just the tip of the iceberg with what you’re going to see with Rapid Response,” said Sallada. “We’re not going to stop anytime soon. We’re going to keep growing like this and you never know where the future will take us. We might expand into other areas, we may not. It will be interesting to see where we go in 2023 and 2024.”
Do you want to see more from LebTown?
Free news isn’t cheap. If you value the journalism LebTown provides to the community, then help us make it sustainable by becoming a champion of local news.
You can unlock additional coverage for the community by supporting our work with a one-time contribution, or joining as a monthly or annual member. You can cancel anytime.
Questions about this story? Suggestions for a future LebTown article? Reach our newsroom using the contact form below and we’ll do our best to get back to you.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated after publication to clarify that 911 Rapid Response overall may outfit up to 500 vehicles next year, not the fab shop specifically.