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Colorado Springs unveils new Emergency Operations Center

By: ANDREA SINCLAIR
April 8, 2013
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photo - Bret Waters, Office of Emergency Management director, talks with Colorado Springs Chief of Staff Laura Neumann during an open house at the city's new Emergency Operations Center Monday, April 8, 2013. Photo by MARK REIS/The Gazette
Bret Waters, Office of Emergency Management director, talks with Colorado Springs Chief of Staff Laura Neumann during an open house at the city's new Emergency Operations Center Monday, April 8, 2013. Photo by MARK REIS/The Gazette 

The City of Colorado Springs Office of Emergency Management on Monday unveiled a new Emergency Operations Center and celebrated achieving conditional accreditation from the Emergency Management Accreditation Program, making it the ninth municipality in the nation to be awarded the elite status.

The $300,000 EOC is a central command and control facility from which emergency operations can be directed and coordinated. It is responsible for the strategic overview of a disaster and making operational decisions.

Representatives from city, county and state agencies were in attendance for Monday’s grand opening, which came on the heels of the release last week of the city’s after-action review of the Waldo Canyon fire.

“This was in the works prior to Waldo Canyon, although we incorporated some lessons learned from that crisis,” Director of Emergency Management Bret Waters said. “We have all new technology and new computers, because one of the issues we ran into was slow computers. It’s a dedicated facility and the activations are much quicker.”

Full accreditation of the center is anticipated next month.

The State of Colorado contributed $100,000 to the dedicated, permanent Emergency Operations Center; other partners included Colorado Springs Utilities, El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, El Paso County Public Health, Memorial and Penrose hospitals, American Red Cross, Fort Carson and Peterson Air Force Base.

Colorado Springs Police Chief Pete Carey said the EOC’s main purpose is to be a 24-hour facility that is ready to go whenever a disaster or crisis hits the city and surrounding communities.

“I am very proud of the city’s response, both from the police and fire departments, in the wake of the Waldo Canyon fires,” Carey said. “The EOC is really going to help every agency communicate better and allocate our resources as efficiently as possible.”

The EOC also will serve as a training facility for law enforcement and emergency response personnel for all partner agencies, Carey said. The center will provide accountability to ensure anyone assigned to handle a crisis knows their exact role, Carey said.

The EOC drafted specific procedures and policies to dictate response initiatives to emergencies.

“We have policies for each agency in terms of priority and order of activation and which agencies are supposed to respond together,” Waters said. “There are activation plans for each position, who they coordinate with and who they report to, ensuring accountability and efficiency. We exercise and train here every month.”

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