WAUSAU, WI (WSAU) - A new Emergency Operations Center is complete and ready to use in Marathon County. The permanent and always-ready room is in the lower level of the Wausau City Hall, and is always on standby should an emergency require the additional coordination of resources.
Marathon County Emergency Management Director Steve Hagman says the E-O-C can now be operational with the flip of a couple of switches. Before, they would have to unpack equipment and set up in the Sheriff’s Department conference room, which takes time and also hinders their ability to have regular training exercises.
Hagman says the Emergency Operations Center serves as a resource for emergency responders and for the public via the news media. "It gives us overall situational awareness and it allows us to communicate with the public through the news media, and it allows the leadership of our community to send one signal to the community during an emergency.”
He says local events like the fair and other large gatherings give E-O-C staff more practice and they’re already there if needed for an emergency. "That's good training for us, so they have the 400 block, a hot air balloon rally, other things that are happening in the county that are large events. The Emergency Operations Center in Brown County activates for every Green Bay Packer home football game, because there's 80,000 people together.”
Hagman says if an emergency is declared, they will notify the news media and the organizations that help coordinate specific services. At that point, the general public should get their information and safety instructions through the media. "We are going to be providing information to the local news media outlets, and we're going to be providing them information that would allow them what actions they need to take, so it's really on a case by case basis."
Several departments help staff the Emergency Operations Center when activated. Hagman says they are able to tap the expertise and resources of the best people available. "County Planning and Zoning provides the mapping people, so they're doing the GIS mapping. We have two people from (Marathon) County Highway and two people from Wausau City Public Works that provide for resource management and we have three people from law enforcement and fire departments that provide the operational role in the E-O-C.”
The new permanent center has a situation room complete with assigned stations for the operational staff and for situational experts that may need to be brought in. They connect by computer to the state and federal emergency management authorities, allowing them to keep track of every detail during an emergency. There is also a conference room and they have the use of emergency power if the City Hall is affected by a power outage.
There will be a grand opening April 17th during Tornado Awareness Week.