Renovated emergency ops center opens for tours

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

Jan. 23, 2012 at 6:05 p.m.
Updated Jan. 22, 2012 at 7:23 p.m.

Most people know the Victoria County Bridge Street Annex as a place to pay your taxes.

The county will unveil a multi-million dollar, cutting-edge emergency operations facility Wednesday with an open-house public tour slated for 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. at 205 N. Bridge St. in downtown Victoria.

It replaces the current 1,000 square-foot emergency operation center at 700 Main Center, which was a multi-purpose area instead of a dedicated facility.

Emergency Management Coordinator Jeb Brian Lacey said the new facility, located in the basement of the Bridge Street annex, has been a dream for the city and county.

"The size of the community and scope of our responsibilities justify a fully state-of-the-art facility," he said. "Before, it was either fully staffed or not set up at all. This is built to already be running. All we have to do is sit down in the chairs."

Renovations to the $2 million emergency center was funded largely through grants, a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and a $455,000 grant from the Coastal Impact Assistance Program.

While the city and county own the center, it will serve as a regional facility for the seven surrounding counties and for state and federal personnel and emergency responders.

Victoria County Director of Administrative Services Joyce Dean said the facility's need had been determined for a long time.

"It became evident after Hurricane Claudette and the 2005 hurricane season that the facility would not meet our needs in the most efficient manner," she said.

Whether a train derailment, big snow, bus accident or hurricane, the new 14,500-square-feet facility can grow to fit any size situation.

By opening or closing glass sliding doors which separate the operation room, situation room, command and policy rooms from the main communication support room, teams of police officers, firefighters, sheriff's deputies, elected officials, nonprofit organizations and private companies can coordinate how to mitigate the effects of emergencies, Lacey said.

"We took a concrete bunker and turned it into an expandable, all-hazard (facility)," Dean said.

Lacey said the facility's basement location is the best fit for the city and county's needs.

With an elevation of 93 feet and more than 500 yards outside the floodplain, the facility is survivable, Lacey said. The building itself can survive a Category 5 hurricane and sustained winds of 170 mph, he said.



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