County to have two EOCs by end of month

With courthouse renovations complete, two Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs) are back in operation in Auglaize County.

Having two such facilities makes Auglaize County a rarity in the state, but local emergency officials say they feel it is necessary.

Rather than designating a primary and a secondary EOC, as previously discussed, Auglaize County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director Troy Anderson said they will be referred to by the designations east and west.

“Really there will be no differences between the two locations,” Anderson said, explaining he thinks it is a good idea to have more than one EOC in the county. “You have to look at it as if a tornado comes through and hits one, we still have one to operate out of that’s more secure.

“We could operate out of the one not affected if a disaster is centralized to one community or part of the county or use both for a large event,” he said.

He said upon walking into EOC West, housed in the basement of the Auglaize County Council on Aging, in St. Marys, everything is set up and ready to go. In the EOC East, in the basement of the Auglaize County Administration Building, in Wapakoneta, items needed will be pulled from cabinets, but that also is being made more walk-in ready.

With the Auglaize County Information Technology Department now located next to the EOC in the county Administration Building, that also should help with questions at times when it needs to be opened.

The EOC, which serves as a decision-making headquarters during a disaster, allows for key officials to, be together and share resources as those important decisions are being made, Anderson explained.

“It’s easier for us to make decisions if we are not out in the stressful field locations,” Anderson said of officials, which would include representatives of the EMA, law enforcement, fire, EMS, the Red Cross and the hospital, who would be manning the EOC addressing different areas of emergency response.

An EOC can be opened at the request of a 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. Having such a center dates back to civil defense days.

“There has always been one in St. Marys,” Anderson said. “That was the EOC’s original location since ’67 or before. Now there is this one, too, dependent on the event, the situation and needs with what is going on.”

An EOC also had been housed in Wapakoneta, most recently in the county Administration Building, until courthouse renovations required it to be based primarily out of St. Marys the past two years until the county Administration Building’s original occupants moved back in and the courthouse staff moved out of temporary offices created for them there.

“By the end of January, we expect to be back in service,” Anderson said of the EOC East, in the basement of the building where his office is Monday through Friday.

While an EOC has been in St. Marys since its inception, Anderson said the east one has been in a variety of locations off and on in Wapakoneta during that time, with it also located in the Sheriff’s Office and County Engineer’s Office at different times through the years.

The EOC in the county Administration Building had been operating as the primary facility when they got moved out temporarily and members of the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) used the time to put state and federal grant funding into updating the EOC in St. Marys as it is required for each county to have an operational EOC, Anderson said.

Volunteer labor paired with the grant money for a project that cost less than $20,000.

No costs are expected to be incurred to reactivate the EOC in Wapakoneta.