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New emergency operation center will offer better help in disasters

By DAVID TEWES
May 26, 2010 at 12:26 a.m.


The county has received a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and has applied for a $455,000 Coastal Impact Assistant Program grant to fund the center.

Construction of Victoria County's new emergency operation center to help emergency personnel better deal with disasters should begin this fall.

"What it means is a more coordinated response to small, medium and large disasters," said Joyce Dean, the county's director of Administrative Services. "Its intent is not only to address hurricanes, but to address any disaster Victoria might be forced to deal with."

A committee was appointed to help the county pick an architect. The design is already under way and decisions are being made about the equipment.

"Our goal is to have it finished before the start of hurricane season next year," Dean said. "It will give first responders a secure, safe location and state-of-the-art equipment to quickly and effectively serve our community."

The joint city-county facility will be in what is now the basement of the courthouse annex at 205 N. Bridge St., which is estimated to withstand 170 mph winds.

The city and county have been using space in the city-owned 700 Main Center for the emergency operation center. But it has become cramped and there are questions whether it could withstand a Category 3 hurricane, which has winds greater than 110 mph.

It will cost about $1.5 million to remodel and equip the center. Dean was able to secure a $1 million grant to help with the cost.

The basement has 14,000 square feet, which compares to the 987 square feet in the current emergency center.

Jeb Lacey, the county emergency management coordinator, has said the new center could also serve as a regional facility for seven counties and for state and federal personnel.

"Victoria understands that it is at the center of a region that may suffer a catastrophic disaster and we may lend support in all sorts of scenarios to our neighbors," he said. "We are definitely going to take into consideration when we design this EOC the potential for us needing to support more regional operations."

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