New Emergency Operations Center Nears Completion

The main building complex covers 6,700 square feet. The finished cost will be right at $4 million.

by James Beaty, McAlester News-Capital, Okla. / November 19, 2017

(TNS) -- The new Pittsburg County Emergency Operations Center is almost complete, with emergency management personnel already operating from the site.

Pittsburg County Office of Emergency Management Director Kevin Enloe said some work remains, but the basic building is finished.

“The biggest thing we’re working on now is communications,” Enloe said, referring to wiring and equipment that still needs to be installed.

A number of Pittsburg County residents will get a chance to see the Emergency Operations Center up-close during the Community Thanksgiving Dinner set for Thanksgiving Day on Thursday, Nov. 23. It’s now the new site for the annual community dinner.

The main building complex covers 6,700 square feet, Enloe said. A few changes or upgrades have been made since the submission of the original design.

“I think the finished cost will be right at $4 million,” Enloe said. Pittsburg County commissioners approved paying for the facility by using the county’s economic development funds.

The building includes offices for the main Emergency Operations Center. When completed it will also house the main dispatch center for emergency responders. It also includes a full kitchen, which will be utilized for the community dinner this week.

Architects designed the Emergency Operations Center’s main room to be big enough to hold a large group of officials and responders in case of a major disaster.

“On a full-scale disaster, there will be 54 people in this room,” Enloe said.

During a major disaster, those who could operate from the site include personnel from the offices of Emergency Management, the Pittsburg County Health Department, the Pittsburg County commissioners, the McAlester city manager, law enforcement, search and rescue personnel and others.

“Everybody works right here,” Enloe said.

Included in the main room is a wall-long dry-erase board and a number of screens that can double as television or projection screens, as needed.

“You can project different things up there,” said Enloe as EOC Deputy Director Lois Lupardus demonstrated how the board can be used by writing on it.

Since the Oklahoma Office of Emergency Management considers Pittsburg County a regional hub for disaster responses in Southeastern Oklahoma, the site is also being readied for use as a disaster response site for other counties.

“It may not be our county,” said Enloe. “We will be working all of southeastern Oklahoma. For disaster response services, the territory covered includes the area ranging from everything east of Interstate 35 to everything south of Interstate 40, Enloe said.

He feels there are advantages to having the regional emergency operations center in Pittsburg County.

“As a regional operations center, it will speed-up or expedite the response in case we have a natural disaster here,” Enloe said. “We’ll be able to get the services out and address the needs quicker.”

“All the decision-making will be in one place,” he noted. “We’ll also be staging resources here at the facility.” That could include generators that might to be placed at the facility in advance of an ice storm, for example.

One room in the facility includes three bunk beds, which would make it easier to operate from the site 24 hours a day, if necessary.

“When working during extended operations, we could have six people sleeping here,” Enloe said.

Another room contains the dispatch center, which still needs some work before operators move into the building.

“Six 911 operators will be here eventually,” Enloe said.

A nearby room has been designed as a place for the media to gather during an emergency situation for briefings and the relaying of information.

“This is also set up with video-conferencing,” Enloe said, in case a video conference is needed with state officials such as the governor.

The Emergency Operations Center is equipped with generators and includes a room with a significant battery backup system to retain critical electronic information in case of a power outage. It’s designed to maintain a specific temperature.

“We had to add an additional seven tons of heat and air,” Enloe said.

Outside the building, an adjacent area has stations with six RV hookups, with water and electricity, to house emergency responders from additional agencies who may need to operate from the site.

Back inside the building, the kitchen is on the southwest side of the structure. Why is a kitchen, with a full stove and refrigerator needed?

“When we have a disaster, we will bring in the Red Cross and the Baptist Men to cook,” Enloe said. If the situation warrants, meals could be cooked at the site and transported to disaster victims.

“In a mandatory evacuation, we have to feed you,” Enloe said. Bathing or showering facilities also have to be provided, he said.

In case of a major disease outbreak or a biological disaster, the new EOC Center would also serve as a point of distribution for the Pittsburg County Health Department, Enloe said.

“All the emergency responders would have to get their vaccinations here,” he said.

In addition to Lupardus, Hillary Tripp also serves as a deputy director at the EOC. On a routine day, the facility will be operated by Enloe and the two deputies.

The new Emergency Operations Center is off West Street. To reach the facility, turn east off West Street onto EOC Drive, which is currently a gravel roadway that’s the first turn north of Electric Avenue. The new Pittsburg County Emergency Operations Center is behind, or to the east of, the Pittsburg County Animal Shelter, and is near the Pittsburg County Sheriff’s Office.

©2017 the McAlester News-Capital (McAlester, Okla.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.