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Palm Bay--New EOC Unveiled

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  • Palm Bay--New EOC Unveiled

    Facility sets up for catastrophic events

    Palm Bay to unveil county EOC Aug. 23

    By Victor Thompson

    PALM BAY -- The city's new emergency operations center looks like a big, cream-colored shoebox squatted across the way from Liberty Park's baseball field.

    Assistant Fire Chief Tom Knecht, however, is betting that this windowless, concrete-encased rectangular box can not only hold up to 180-mph winds, but raging wildfires, extensive floods and almost any other Florida phenomenon that would wipe out any other structure in the city.

    "It's not pretty, but this is where I'd want to be in case an event happens," Knecht said.

    At a little more than $100 per square foot -- the building is only 7,500 square feet -- the center, known as the EOC, is not fully equipped yet, but is designed to be an alternative to Brevard County's EOC in Rockledge, and the only emergency operations center south of U.S. 192.

    Bob Lay, director of Brevard County's emergency operations based in Rockledge, said Palm Bay's center will help provide emergency services to a rapidly growing city and reduce response times during catastrophic events.

    "We're a long county, and this way, I believe, we can coordinate services more easily," Lay said.

    Palm Bay's center is not outfitted with the electronic equipment needed yet, but it can accommodate communication equipment already used by police and fire as well as county emergency response personnel.

    Knecht said the center provides greater local control over events affecting Palm Bay but would coordinate all its responses with Brevard emergency managers.

    The center took two years to build and outfit, but only $240,800 of the project came from city taxpayers, with the state chipping in $250,000 in grant funds. State Rep. Mitch Needelman, R-Melbourne, said that having weathered the threat of Hurricane Floyd in 1999 in a second-floor city hall office, he was determined to get money for the center.

    "I feel the citizens of Palm Bay and all of South Brevard will be served well," Needelman said.

    Inside, the EOC has a room in the center of the building called "the core" -- which also is surrounded with concrete walls -- that will hold the majority of the television, Internet and telephone communication systems for police, fire and emergency operations experts. Fire department officials said they are seeking grants to purchase equipment.

    Knecht said local legislators, such as city council members and the city's management team, and other teams looking to escape the activity of the core could use the rooms now used by the fire department's staff to plan their response.

    The building has a library, a kitchen, his-and-hers bathrooms with showers, an icemaker and a diesel-powered generator that can keep everything running for 72 hours in case the city's power grid collapses. It is not a public shelter but is built to accommodate decision-makers, such as the city council, as well as local, state and federal emergency response experts during long periods of time.

    "Every room has a dual role," Knecht said. "Every department had something to do with building this and we're very grateful to them."

    The building will open to the public from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 23 as part of the city's Safety Day.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
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    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

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