I have been trying for a long time to get into the EPA’s Emergency Operations Center for a long time. At the beginning of the spring semester I finally got to tour and speak with employees at the center. I gain so much knowledge that I can use for my thesis project about the organization, their center and its design and response systems, and the experiences of the many people in this facility.
I have been researching the topics of disaster relief mass shelters and organizations ranging from federal to private sector responses to disasters for a long time now. This area of design and systems management has fascinated me for some time and now my thesis is dealing with these preexisting systems, critiquing them, and creating a healthier environment for the people using school mass shelters. I spoke to many employees who have been volunteer responders in disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy. Their experiences and knowledge of disaster relief response was enlightening and helped me with where certain areas are lacking and could be improved.
The Emergency Operations Center or EOC serves as the EPA’s emergency response operational hub. It is a communication and coordination central area designed to increase data management, planning and coordination, and activation capabilities that are efficient during disasters when they occur. They provide support and link agencies ranging from the federal to the regional level. Communication is key to their efforts, including with local command centers. The operations center was actually redesigned nine years ago with central communications layout. Considerations in the design were all about noise control and acoustics as well as adaptability of the space for various situations that may arise. A variety of media technology such as computers for data analysis, video/teleconferencing, and televisions as well as break-out/meeting rooms that are flexible and adapt to any disaster situation are included in the new design.