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HVAC: The Bane of Many an EOC

A critical building function.

When it comes time to build a new facility or move to an older remodeled building, the HVAC system should be a primary concern for emergency managers.

See this story: “Santa Barbara County Replacing HVAC System in Emergency Operations Center.”

There are several lessons to be learned. One is that while data rooms have shrunk in recent decades due to the size of the equipment going into them, the number of actual systems has increased. One of the things these data systems do is generate heat. Cooling the room is a big deal, as shown by the article above.

Then there is the need for redundancy of systems. I was the state of Washington EOC director when the HVAC system was failing during a heatwave, and at the same time we were fighting huge wildfires threatening entire towns. The emergency work done back then was around $55,000, since it was a small facility.

Lesson learned, and when I had the opportunity to help design the King County Regional Communications and Emergency Coordination Center (RCECC) we made sure it was sized properly and there were two complete systems that rotated being on and off to provide that redundancy.

Redundancy starts at home with your own facility!
Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.