08/30/11 1201 W, 5 I - + 6 - 11 North Carolina Emergency Operations Center


See photos from Saturday

Let’s take a tour of the North Carolina Emergency Operations Center (EOC), which is located in the basement of the Administration Building at 116 W. Jones Street. That building was  built in 1967, but the EOC might be older. We'll research that one. (It probably originated during the time of Civil Defense infrastructure expansion during the Cold War. We’ll research that one. (Frank Blazich's North Carolina Civil Defense History would be a good place to start. As for the site of the Administration Building, the land was privately owned until 1963, say county real estate records.)

What is an EOC, you ask? Here's the Wikipedia definition, paraphrased: a central command and control facility responsible for carrying out emergency preparedness/management functions at a strategic level, and ensuring the continuity of operation. An EOC is responsible for the strategic overview/big picture of the emergency, and does not normally directly control field assets. It makes operational decisions and leaves tactical decisions to lower commands.
 


 

The physical space of the center is a series of connected rooms on a single floor underneath the Administration Building. Also on the floor is the state’s 24 Hour Operations Center. That facility is staffed at all times, has an additional level of access control, and operates as the communications center for the EOC. It's also where “regular” emergency requests for state resources are received throughout the year, such as a request to activate a USAR task force.

The EOC is operated by the Emergency Management (EM) Division of the North Carolina Department of Crime Control & Public Safety. During major emergencies, the EM division becomes the support staff for the State Emergency Response Team (SERT). The response team is comprised of representatives from various agencies and organizations who provide services and support during emergencies.
 


 

When activated, EOC staffing includes EM staff, SERT members, select state department heads, and the Governor and/or her staff. During the center’s activation for Hurricane Irene, the roll call included representatives from:

  • Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE)
  • American Red Cross
  • Civil Air Patrol
  • Cooperative Extension
  • Critical Incident Stress Management Association
  • Department of Agriculture
  • Department of Corrections (DOC)
  • Department of Crime Control & Public Safety
  • Department of Environment and Natural Resources
    • Air Quality
    • Dam Safety
    • Forest Resources
    • Water Quality
    • Wildlife
    • Etc.
  • Department of Health and Human Services
    • Epidemiology
    • Mental Health
    • Social Services
    • Etc.
  • Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
  • Department of Transportation (DOT)
  • Division of Air Quality
  • Division of Forest Resources
  • Emergency Management Division
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
  • Governor’s Office
  • National Guard (NCNG)
  • North Carolina Baptist Men
  • Office of Emergency Medical Services (OEMS)
  • Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM)
  • The Salvation Army
  • State Bureau of Investigation (SBI)
  • State Highway Patrol (SHP)
  • State Medical Assistance Teams (SMAT)
  • United States Coast Guard (USCG)
  • United States Postal Service (USPS)
  • Utility companies

The EOC is activated for major emergencies, such as hurricanes. It can also be activated in a limited capacity for smaller-scale events, such as snow storms. The EOC is also activated for training purposes. One full-scale activation exercise is conducted per year. Those alternate between a nuclear accident and a non-nuclear accident. For the latter, conducted every other year, the non-nuclear accidents alternate between a hurricane and a non-hurricane (terrorism, public health, etc.)

The EOC was activated in preparation for Hurricane Irene on Thursday, August 25, at 7:00 a.m. The operational periods were 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., and the center was fully staffed during those times. (There are no sleeping rooms or living quarters in the EOC, however. Cat naps can be caught in chairs or cots, as needed.)
 


 

Each operational period begins with a briefing, which is conducted in the Situation Room, shown above. That’s the “big room” and, in the early days, it was the only room. Explains EOC Manager Darlene Johnson—who conducted our fine tour on Saturday morning—it was a noisy, crowded experience. And because everyone smoked, she recalls, you couldn’t see the front of the room from the back of the room. 

The Saturday morning briefing included an extensive meteorology report, a review of incident objectives (that day, they were phasing from preparation to response), a review of landfall conditions, a safety reminder (cease field operations when winds are greater than 50 mph, do not drive vehicles through standing water, etc.), reports from EOC branch heads (Operations, Recovery, Logistics, Public Information, Geospatial and Technology Management), and an update from the SERT leader.

After the briefing, the Situation Room was largely emptied as folks headed to the center’s smaller rooms, each designated for specific branches of operation: Command and Control, Planning, Communication, Logistics, etc. Here’s a photo of a map of the EOC, showing the various rooms:
 


 

The EOC maintained communication with each county’s emergency manager, with 100 managers for the state’s 100 counties. They also were in close contact with the state EOCs in Virginia and South Carolina. Many of the evacuees on the northern Outer Banks, for example, would evacuate to Virginia, their home state.

There are also Branch Offices activated as Regional Coordination Centers during emergencies. The Eastern Branch Office (EBO), for example, is in Kinston and located adjacent to the Global TransPark Training Center on Highway 58. It coordinates with its 33 counties, and their local Emergency Management directors on deploying resources and responders from the state.  (How many total NC EM facilities are present statewide? We’ll look into that.)
 


 

How many people were staffing the EOC? On their first day of operation, they fed 200 people for lunch. (That meal is a catered box lunch. The day’s second meal is also catered, but from a restaurant and with entrees.) How long is the average EOC activation? Four days, on average. For a hurricane, the timeframe typically translates to a day or two before landfall, the day of landfall, and a day or two after landfall. Read more in the NC EOC Standard Operating Guide, one of several documents available on the Emergency Management Division web site.

Other interesting things about the EOC:

See photos from Saturday.





As a PIO, I find this post extremely interesting. Good info here! Thanks for sharing.
jcollins - 08/31/11 - 12:30

I have a copy of the dedication program for this building if desired. It did indeed open in 1967. Prior to this, the state EOC operated out of the basement of the General Assembly building (notably during the Cuban Missile Crisis) and at the headquarters of the NCCD at the intersection of Dale and Jefferson in the downtown Raleigh area.
Frank Blazich, Jr. (Web Site) - 09/02/11 - 20:18

Frank, please pass along a copy of the program at your convenience. Also, please tell about the EOC’s origins and timeframes at both prior locations, if you are inclined. Looks like residential buildings, plus a recent office building at Dale and Jefferson. Is the original NCCD headquarters structure gone?
Legeros - 09/03/11 - 06:21

I’ll dig it out of my files but will pass it along. The building at Jefferson and Dale IS the old NCCD building. The old shelter there unfortunately was filled in, although when I have no idea: http://nccdhistory.blogspot.com/2009/05/..

In terms of when an EOC was first used for the state in an emergency, I am not entirely sure off the top of my head. The General Assembly building was still being finished when the NCCD used the basement of it as the EOC during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Until 1967, it appears that the building at Jefferson and Dale remained the EOC. Until I get all my data organized (40GBs plus) this is the best I can recall at this time.
Frank Blazich, Jr. (Web Site) - 09/03/11 - 07:55

Thanks Frank. The real fun of research is making sense of and organizing everything. Of course, that can take longer than the research does!
Legeros - 09/03/11 - 08:08



  
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