The new City of Williamsburg Emergency Operations Center opened to the public this week.
Previously located in a 300-square-foot room on the second floor of the Stryker Building, the new EOC is an addition and expansion of the Williamsburg Fire Department and boasts 4,700 feet.
“During Hurricane Isabel, when we were all crammed together staring at each other for six days, we knew we had to change,” Williamsburg City Public Information Officer Eric Stone said.
EOC’s, usually located within a county’s municipal seat, provide headquarters for emergency staff in times of disaster to plan emergency-preparedness protocols or management during a time of crisis.
Planning for the addition began in 2007 when representatives from Williamsburg traveled to other EOC’s in nearby Virginia counties including Waynesboro and York counties. The city took elements from those facilities to design the new EOC. Ground was broken in October 2008, and construction was finished last June.
The new EOC boasts several technological improvements. Prior to the opening of the new facility, staff members had to use their own personal laptops during emergencies. Now, there are over 10 screens are placed throughout the center in order to display multiple broadcasts.
Additionally, there is a new audio system throughout the building and a touch screen keypad that allows workers to map patterns in the weather.
“You can kind of be like John Madden and draw on the screen, but it also lets us draw and display wind directions,” Fire Chief Pat Dent said.
Stone mentioned that the building can be used by city staff outside of emergency situations. For example, the police department can use the space for technology training.
“Most facilities are undersized, since it’s hard to justify spending the money,” Dent said. “However, we are all about preparedness, and we want to provide people the proper facility to operate in, or you’re going to have issues.”