ASIS Professional Tour: Behind-the-Scenes Look at Emergency Operations Center

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department Emergency Operations Center serves as the nerve center during a regional emergency, and so much more.

Security practitioners headed to Anaheim, Calif., to attend the ASIS Int’l 61st Annual Seminar and Exhibits will have no shortage of extracurricular activities away from the show floor and educational sessions. If you are in town on Sunday (Sept. 27), and you have an interest in emergency communications and disaster preparedness, I highly encourage you to consider this year’s installment of the ASIS Professional Tour.

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Participants will depart the Anaheim Convention Center at 12:30 p.m. aboard a charted bus for a drive to Loma Ridge, a 1,400-foot peak that’s home to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Emergency Operations Center (EOC). I had the occasion recently to visit the 30,000-square-foot facility – and take in all those fantastic landscape vistas – as part of a media tour hosted by ASIS.

The fortified grounds – isolated atop the ridge behind secured perimeter fencing – are the hub of the county’s extensive radio transmission system. The EOC is operational around the clock and serves as a centralized command post for emergency preparedness and disaster response. It’s also home to 911 dispatching for contract cities and all unincorporated county areas.

Should a catastrophic event befall the region, the EOC can be transformed into a self-contained village, explained Jack Hoag, a senior program coordinator for the EOC. “We are able to call in a team of 250 to 300 people who can be active within an hour,” Hoag told me.

The EOC can sustain emergency workers with enough food, water, fuel and other supplies for about 72 hours. Hoag said the most recent event that called for a full-scale, multi-jurisdictional response was in 2007 when wildfires consumed several areas in the county. Late last year the EOC summoned emergency personnel for a short period when record rainfall forced the evacuation of residents in several neighborhoods.

The county adheres to the National Incident Management System (NIMS), which was developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in 2004, for its emergency response protocols. NIMS established a uniform set of processes and procedures that emergency responders at all levels of government can use to conduct response operations.

During a disaster, EOC team members from non-county agencies assemble in a large operations room that is segmented by individual response groups. Workers are issued colored vests depending on which group they represent, be it for environmental health, schools, coroner, highway patrol, American Red Cross, animal care, utilities, medical, among others. Together their communications training encompasses a wide assortment of calamities, including earthquakes, tsunamis, civil disturbances, energy crises, nuclear power plant emergencies, terrorism and acts of war.

Two other specific rooms are operated during a disaster response. Executive and management staff from county agencies such as the sheriff’s department, fire authority, health-care, social services, public works and others gather in the command center. In the support center, various functions are carried out including a public information hotline. Manning a bank of telephones, staffers are trained to help relieve the load on 911 police and fire lines during an emergency.

My tour through the EOC included a peek inside the sheriff department’s large dispatch center, which houses numerous desk pods topped with various electronics. Here, sheriff personnel operate and monitor the county’s vast communications system, including radio, microwave, dispatch and E-911 equipment.  Along with fielding 911 calls from the public – about 15,000 per month – dispatchers maintain two-way radio contact with deputies in the field and coordinate radio communications with allied agencies.

Experiencing the EOC up close, and learning about the enormous logistics that go in to large-scale emergency response, was certainly eye opening for me. Bravo to all those dedicated folks in Orange County, and others in jurisdictions around the nation where similar programs are protecting communities in times of need.

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About the Author


Although Bosch’s name is quite familiar to those in the security industry, his previous experience has been in daily newspaper journalism. Prior to joining SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION in 2006, he spent 15 years with the Los Angeles Times, where he performed a wide assortment of editorial responsibilities, including feature and metro department assignments as well as content producing for Bosch is a graduate of California State University, Fresno with a degree in Mass Communication & Journalism. In 2007, he successfully completed the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association’s National Training School coursework to become a Certified Level I Alarm Technician.

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