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Ormond Beach Observer Tuesday, Jun. 5, 2018 10 months ago

Close quarters: How Ormond Beach first responders and city department heads operate an EOC from one room

With no designated emergency operations center, the Ormond Beach Police Department's training room does the job.
by: Jarleene Almenas News Editor

When the city of Ormond Beach triggers the activation of its emergency operations center, the police department's training room becomes a hub of activity. 

The city manager will sit at the head of the room, and each of the departments, from Leisure Services to Public Works, has a table stationed inside. In the past couple of years with Hurricane Matthew and Irma, there have been anywhere from 40 to 50 people inside the Ormond Beach Police Department, said Capt. Chris Roos. The EOC will remain active before, during and after the storm, with first responders and city staff alternating between day and night shift.

Even now, with no major storm announcement, Ormond Beach Mayor Bill Partington said the city has already began cleaning out culverts and mowing along drainage canals. About 8,000 sandbags have already been filled as well. 

“Really, our residents should feel comfortable that city staff is pretty prepared," Partington said. "It’s almost like a muscle-reflex when hurricane season rolls around. They know how to respond and they go into action to get prepared and be ready.”

The activation of the EOC is part of the Ormond Beach Peacetime Emergency Plan, which is put into place in the event of a hurricane, wildfire, terrorist attack or any other major emergency in the area. The Ormond Beach Police Department's training room has operated as the EOC since it was built, said Chief Jesse Godfrey. 

Ormond Beach Fire Chief and Emergency Operation Commander Bob Mandarino said one of the positives of having an active EOC is the ease of communication. For example, the city's planning department takes the key role of leading the Incident and Action plan for emergencies, and other department staff are constantly passing information on to them. 

“You’re not having to drive around to get any information," Mandarino said. "Everyone has a representative here at the EOC.”

It also makes communicating faster, more reliable and easier to sense urgency with certain requests, said Godfrey and Roos. However, having the EOC in the police department's training room also presents challenges. 

Roos said the police department is not a large building, and close proximity between those trying to work and those sleeping can present difficulties. For Irma, Godfrey said first responders and city staff were able to be housed off-site when not working, which was an improvement. Talk arose last year about constructing a dual-purpose community center in West Ormond, with the possibility of being turned into an EOC as needed, but it did not lead anywhere. 

“I was in support of a multi-use facility, not here at the PD — totally in support of that, for obvious reasons," Godfrey said.

Mandarino said bids for a West Ormond Neighborhood Center were too high and that the city weighs the expense versus how often it will get utilized. He said on average, the EOC in Ormond Beach has been activated every four to five years. 

Partington said he struggles with the construction of an EOC facility from a financial perspective since the city could spend upwards of $5 million and consequently not use it for 10 years. 

“When you only use it when you need it, but you don’t know when that’s going to be, it’s tough for me to envision spending that kind of money," Partington said.

Instead, he said he's looking into a hurricane hardened facility to house staff and first responders full-time for a week to 10 days after a hurricane. Something like that is not as expensive and may be reimbursable with FEMA funds, Partington said. He added that he's open to talk about the possibility of constructing an EOC with the rest of the City Commission, as it is an area where the city can improve upon. 



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