Highland County Emergency Operations Center Open House
In times of emergency, communication and coordination are critical for those tasked with providing assistance. Highland County now has a new resource to facilitate those needs. The county modular building has been prepared and equipped as an Emergency Operations Center, designed to be a hub of operations if emergencies occur. Harley Gardner, Emergency Services Coordinator for Highland County, explained more at an open house to display the new Center’s capabilities.
“The object here is to allow an expanding incident, where we have other other agencies, other individuals, other jurisdictions, state, federal government, other counties, has a place where they can come. This is not a place where operations would be directed, it’s kind of more like command and control. In other words, we would not be involved in telling the police how to do their job, or the fire department or the rescue squad what they needed to do – this is more command and control and support, and getting other agencies to work together.
“This equipment that’s in here was funded by a grant, which we applied for last year, and the county only actually expended one-quarter of the grant – we matched it with time, some of the contractors and people who helped put this all together, especially my communications committee at the LEPC.
“I have nine multiple line telephones in here, one at each station. Some stations have two phones because they are being shred by two different agencies. We have a multiple radio charging station here; we have three desktop computers that were surplus equipment we got from the school; I have four laptop computers, which were also surplus.
“We have a complete ham radio station here – we can contact other jurisdictions, we can talk to Richmond – any other jurisdiction pretty much in the state, as well as other states and around the world with that system. We also have two standby radios that can be utilized for operational control of the fire department, rescue squad and law enforcement.”
Highland resident and ham radio operator Jerry Moats described the communications equipment which would keep the county in touch with distant authorities.
“We have a complete amateur radio station set up here, in what we call a go box, which kind of makes it portable. We have the ability to cover all frequencies, from HF frequencies all the way through the VHF and UHF frequencies. The VHF and UHF frequencies are mostly line of sight, but we also supplement that with the use of repeaters located on high points on the mountain, which increases the coverage of the VHF band.
So we have the ability to use the repeaters to extend our coverage. There are repeaters in adjoining counties which we can also access, which gives us communication into the surrounding counties, and the HF radios give you the ability to have worldwide coverage without the use of any repeaters, and with these radios, we have the ability to not only have local communications, with local hams, but we also have the ability to be in contact with the state EOC in Richmond. There’s a ham station set up there similar to this one, and we have the ability, if need be, to go direct contact with the state EOC, if all other means of communications were down for some reason, then we have that ability.”
Pat O’Neill of the Red Cross was also on hand to provide support for the open house. Stay tuned for more information on Red Cross activities and how you can become involved.