Wednesday, March 07, 2001

Emergency center to relocate

Boone County seeks new site

By Ray Schaefer
Enquirer Contributor

        BURLINGTON — The Boone County Emergency Operations Center is a closet in the basement of the Florence city building.

        Emergency Management Director Dan Maher thinks that should end and that emergency response teams should have a dedicated command center. Mr. Maher's annual report, presented at Tuesday's Fiscal Court meeting, calls for a separate building that would have space for equipment and offices.

        In case of an emergency, response teams must take equipment and computers out of the closet and assemble the command center — which could waste response time.

        Judge-executive Gary Moore said Tuesday the county should have a site selected within two months. Deputy Director Bill Fletcher said there is no cost estimate yet.

        “We've prepared some conceptual drawings,” Mr. Fletcher said.

        Mr. Maher said a new setup is needed because emergency operations now has to share space — often with cellists and choir members whose groups use the room for practice. He said the center is also less than a mile from a pair of potential hazardous materials sites — Interstate 75 and the Travel America truck stop on at the corner of Ky. 18 and Tanners Lane.

        “That room is a community room,” Mr. Maher said. “Everybody from the Florence City Band to other civic groups use it. That's what I'm told.”

        The EOC hasn't had to set up shop since it stayed open for the Y2K scare that didn't happen, and if an emergency takes place during choir practice, help could take longer to get on the road.

        But deputy director Bill Fletcher said not having to activate the center very often is not the point.

        He said having the emergency management office in Burlington and the EOC in Florence is a problem, along with having to spend an hour hooking up computers, telephones and other equip ment at the center.

        Mr. Maher said when the center is built, it will have to meet federal guidelines for backup water, power and sanitation systems. He also wants space for police and firefighters to learn each other's jobs.

        “When they're together on the scene, it's just a lack of familiarity with (each other's) operating procedures,” Mr. Maher said.

        Boone County Police Chief James Whalen said his department works with firefighters during in-service seminars throughout the year.

        The report also called for:

        • Installing new antennas to improve the EOC's two-way radio system.

        • Creating Community Emergency Response Teams in schools, businesses and neighborhoods. People would receive basic emergency response training and limited logistical support.

        • Conducting two countywide disaster drills this year.

        The report stated the first would take place this spring and involve a mock hostage situation in central Boone County. The second happens in the fall and involves a mock significant hazardous materials spill with moderate impact on the public.


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