Dual EOCs planned: Future of county emergency operations centers considered

Having two emergency operation centers in the county is a likely possibility as Auglaize County officials look into future planning.

“We’re looking at having one in both places,” Auglaize County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director Troy Anderson said, referring to Wapakoneta and St. Marys. “We would be unique in that we would be one of the only counties to have two.”

While Anderson said there could be two sites in the county designated for such a purpose, only the one in St. Marys would be referred to as the primary Emergency Operations Center, or EOC. The other location in Wapakoneta would be referred to as an Area Command Center.

An EOC can be opened at the request of the jurisdiction if resources are being taxed to help handle emergencies from the township to county level and is staffed by representation from a variety of emergency response fields.

Anderson said having an emergency operations site in St. Marys dates back to civil defense days.  

Recent state and federal grant funding paid for upgrades, which have allowed those manning the site to walk in and use it immediately for the first time in 25 years.

“There was always concern before that we would have to set up before we could start and that took 30 minutes,” Anderson said. “Now everything is live all the time. It’s ready to go, we just need to walk in.”

At the same time, Anderson, whose office is in Wapakoneta, would be there Monday through Friday so if something happened during the week it would make sense for him to be able to go straight to a location in the eastern half of the county which could operate as an EOC.

“It also makes sense to think ahead in case we need to set up one in Wapak because of what’s going on,” Anderson said.

Before proceeding, Anderson said costs and a list of items needed to establish one in both cities would need to be determined.

“We’re in the discussion process,” Anderson said. “It’s a work in progress.”

An EOC had been established in the basement of the Auglaize County Courthouse until renovations required that courthouse personnel be placed in the Auglaize County Administration Building until this summer, when renovations to the courthouse should be complete.

It was at that time that grant money was put into the St. Marys EOC, located in the basement of the Auglaize County Council on Aging, as the county had to have an operational EOC.

Grant funding for the project was between $24,000 and $35,000, based on need, with a requirement that $30,000 must be spent toward the project by September 2012.

To date, drywall, lights and radio work have all been done at the St. Marys location, with much of the labor donated by members of the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC).

To operate an EOC facility from the Auglaize County Administration Building would not be a financial burden since the building already is tied into the main tower of the Sheriff’s Office and other capabilities also are already in place there.

Nothing additional would need to be purchased, Auglaize County Commissioner Doug Spencer said.

“Once the courthouse project is complete and everyone returns to the Administration Building, it has always been our intent that everyone would move back to where they relocated from,” Spencer said.

While the basement of the county building was modified to house a Common Pleas courtroom during the transition period, Spencer said they believed it could be left as is and still work as an EOC.

“Because we had to have an operating EOC, the grant money was applied to St. Marys and has to stay with that specific address, but we are talking about having two EOCs and how that would work,” Spencer said.     “There may be times when geography favors opening one and not the other, but it also can’t solely go on geography. Nothing’s been decided.”

In the past there have been several previous attempts at locations for an EOC in Wapakoneta, including the Engineer’s Office and Sheriff’s Office, prior to the Administration Building.

In addition to discussions on where the county should have EOC capabilities, members of the LEPC also met recently and discussed better training on operating the emergency centers.

“It’s a good thing we don’t have to use the EOC often, but it’s a bad thing also because we don’t get used to it,” LEPC Chairman Kendall Krites said. “I think we still have some work to do as we’ve learned through a couple instances we’ve had.”