County EOC is needed before June

The severe storm of June 29 proves the move to implement a new Emergency Operations Center in Washington County can’t come soon enough.

County officials recently learned the county would receive $237,500 from the Ohio Emergency Management Agency toward the implementation of a permanent emergency operations center. The county will kick in another $237,500.

The plan calls for the new center to locate at Washington County Children Services on Davis Avenue and be equipped with a briefing room, radio/dispatch area, offices and reception area. The location is out of the flood plain and is equipped with on-site fuel and backup power.

The project is estimated to be complete by June 30 of this year, but we urge county officials to push this project to finish more quickly.

During last June’s storm, electricity was knocked out to a wide area, leaving many in hot dark homes without access to water, ice or gasoline. It caught many individuals unprepared but local officials seemed somewhat unprepared as well. Very little communication made its way from officials to residents in the first day or two after the storm when the need was greatest. Many residents voiced concern that local communities weren’t as prepared as they could have been for such a storm, and the lack of an adequate emergency operations center contributed to that concern.

Certainly there’s a potential for severe weather and the need for an EOC now, so we hope the estimate of a June 30 completion date is being made out of caution and not necessity.

Our area can be hit with a snow storm, wind storm or flood at any time. The move for an enhanced EOC is already overdue, and should be completed as quickly as possible. It’s critical for local responders, utilities and community leaders to come together to coordinate response to severe weather that causes hardship or even harm to residents. An equipped and functional EOC is a crucial piece of that puzzle.

Even if every final detail isn’t complete, we don’t see why a functional operations center can’t be in place much more quickly.

The building is in place and in good shape. Any construction work to be done is interior and officials have said partitions will likely be used, rather than creating new rooms.

The addition of an on-site fuel source may be a bigger job but the center could open temporarily without it.

If this project is made a priority, a new EOC could be in place this winter.

A lot of bad weather, or other community crisis, can happen between now and June. We’d like to see the EOC in place sooner rather than later.