Jul 12 2012
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L.A. Emergency Operations Center: Model for Preparedness and Collaboration

L.A. EOC Main Coordination Room L.A. Emergency Operations Center Main Coordination Room

This year’s National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) Annual Meeting offered attendees a unique opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at the City of Los Angeles Emergency Operations Center (EOC), a central point for coordinating emergency planning, training, and response and recovery efforts for disasters such as fires, floods, earthquakes, and acts of terrorism. The EOC draws on best practices for preparedness by facilitating collaboration between multiple city departments. What is unique is that this cross-department teamwork is enabled by a state-of-the-art, 84,000 square feet, two-story, seismically-base-isolated facility that also houses the Fire Department Operations Center and the Police Department Real-Time Analysis and Critical Response (RACR) Division and Operations Center.

Because of this shared space, strong relationships are established across critical public health, preparedness, police and fire department contacts that enable working together in an emergency that much easier. In the event of an actual emergency, the Center serves as a base where, literally, the right people can all be brought to the table. While NACCHO visitors were at the facility, the staff were triaging the response to the National Weather Service Excessive Heat Warning in the Valley by opening additional cooling centers and arranging to have local libraries extend their hours to serve as additional cool spaces for the community, said James Featherstone, general manager of the Emergency Management Department.

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Because of this shared space, strong relationships are established across critical public health, preparedness, police and fire department contacts that enable working together in an emergency that much easier. In the event of an actual emergency, the Center serves as a base where, literally, the right people can all be brought to the table. While NACCHO visitors were at the facility, the staff were triaging the response to the National Weather Service Excessive Heat Warning in the Valley by opening additional cooling centers and arranging to have local libraries extend their hours to serve as additional cool spaces for the community, said James Featherstone, general manager of the Emergency Management Department.

Rob Freeman, emergency preparedness coordinator for the City, showcased the Main Coordination Room—a 7,500 square-foot home base for the kinds of emergencies that necessitate nimble, timely coordination of both information and resources across departments. The room, said Freeman, is laid out and functions according to the National Incident Management System.

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“This floor is designed with collaboration in mind,” said Freeman. The room is clustered into teams or pods of different roles, each with its own monitors and information screens, such as emergency management, operations, planning, logistics, and finance and administration. Each is color-coded and has a designated set of delineated roles that need to be at the table—but the teams are inter-disciplinary, and those roles might be drawn from any number of city departments such as transportation, public works, fire, police, housing and more. For example, Freeman said there is a “mass care” team that includes representatives from the Departments of Parks and Recreation, Disability and Animal Services, and also draws on partnerships with the Red Cross and school districts.

Freeman said it’s also critical that those specific roles, functions, objectives, workflow processes are all in place ahead of time. Constant training keeps the city ready. “That’s a challenge, though, because the city’s workforce is so fluid,” said Freeman. “We have more than 500 people who might be called to come to this location at any given point.”

Part of the idea of bringing all of these functions together regularly ahead of time is that the relationships are there when they’re needed. “We’re part of a public safety team,” said Freeman. “We work closely with the police and fire departments and the Mayor’s office all the time.”

Command Center LA Police Department Command Center for the Los Angeles Police Department

The Command Center for the Los Angeles Police Department is also located in the same facility, again creating greater opportunities for tight integration, and is staffed 24 hours a day. Officer Modesta Smith described a situation when a major tanker erupted in a tunnel, blocking a major entrance into the city, which would threaten vital city operations like doctors getting to hospitals and police officers getting to work. “One of the first calls we made was to James Featherstone of the EOC,” said Smith. “Sharing information works better.”

>>Follow the rest of the NewPublicHealth coverage of the NACCHO Annual Meeting.

Tags: California (CA) P, Emergency Preparedness and Response