Brevard County kicks off building long-needed new EOC with groundbreaking celebration
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After a two-decade wait, Brevard County will soon have a new emergency operations center to coordinate activities among different agencies in case of disaster.
State elected officials, county commissioners and staff were on hand at the construction site Friday for a celebratory groundbreaking to commemorate the start of building the new 42,000 square-foot facility that will accommodate upwards of 400 emergency workers.
“It is certainly a long-term recognized need for us,” said John Scott, the county’s emergency operations director. “We talk about where out limits are, from a current facility standpoint, our current building was built in 1964, which makes it the second oldest EOC in the state of Florida.”
Some administrative processes have yet to be completed, but construction is expected to begin in a couple of months with an expected completion in the spring of 2024.
Officials have been vocal about the need for an upgraded building.
“It has been needed for a very, very long time,” Commission Vice Chair Curt Smith said.
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The current building is meant for 60 people, and the facilities require a significant upgrade to incorporate the new technology needed to coordinate all the activities required in a disaster.
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According to information made available during commission meetings, Brevard’s emergency operations center is the most activated site in the state because of the numerous launches and potential hurricane threat for the area.
The necessity of a new EOC became evident during Hurricane Matthew in 2016, when 200 people were marshalled to deal with multiday incident. Staffers, along with media, were squeezed into building meant for a fraction of that number.
People brought sleeping bags and were resting where they worked. Power and air conditioning issues plagued the building as people were trying to work.
In another time, the restrooms clogged.
Much of the delays stem from funding issues.
“It has been a real nightmare,” Smith said. “We have been working on this for all the years I have been on the commission, and probably before.”
In total, the building will cost upwards of $30 million, up from the $15 million original estimate.
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The county leveraged several funding sources to offset the construction costs for the new site. In 2021, Gov. Ron DeSantis approved a $1 million allocation from the $101.5 billion budget.
However, the new operations center could not have been built without the money Brevard was allocated because of the coronavirus pandemic.
In March of 2021, the county commission approved a $6.75 million outlay from federal coronavirus emergency funds with another $2 million from the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office who also received coronavirus funding.
This year, commissioners approved an additional $12.2 million from the second allotment they received from the American Rescue Plan Act.
The newly constructed center will include more space, allowing room for people who have been activated during an emergency. It will have a room where for press, who can plug in their equipment and meet the technological demands for getting information out to the public.
It will feature an upgraded kitchen to feed those who will need to remain onsite throughout the disaster, as well as a rest area for staff when they need a break from their duties.
The new center will also support upgraded technology.
“We are going to be able to integrate more systems,” Scott said. “We are going to have a better common operating fixture in what is going on because we are able to bring in more technology.”
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For Brevard residents, that translates to shorter response times. Frontline workers will be able to identify problems sooner and dispatch resources to needed areas at a faster rate.
“All of it is going to get more efficient and smoother,” Scott said.
Ralph Chapoco is government and politics watchdog reporter. You can reach Chapoco at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @rchapoco.
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This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Brevard County kicks off building EOC with groundbreaking celebration