Paul Riddle, So Pas Fire Chief, stands in the city’s Emergency Operations Center. Photo by Steve Whitmore

The South Pasadena Emergency Operations Center (EOC), the hub where officials gather and run the city during a disaster, is undergoing a massive remodel to bring it up to industry standards that will cost about $400,000.

“This project currently is the installation of the (technology) portion of it, bringing in new phone lines, new internet connections, that’ll be done in approximately a month,” said So Pas Fire Chief Paul Riddle. “Although the overall project won’t be done until early 2019, once this IT portion is completed in a month, the room will be back to a useful state.”

Riddle was quick to point out that if the city faced an emergency, all the necessary equipment is available and they would simply move it into the bay where they store the fire engines and trucks.

“Even currently, if there was a disaster, we have everything that was in here in place and we would just move it to the apparatus floor,” he said during an interview in the EOC strewn about with discarded furniture, loose wires and wound cables. “We could manage an incident or a disaster, kind of mobile, that we are prepared to do.”

The City Council has been setting aside about $100,00-a-year over the last four budget cycles for this remodel, according to Riddle.

The city’s Emergency Operations Center is undergoing a complete overhaul to update the room. Photo by Steve Whitmore

“Over the last four budget cycles, the City Council has put away about $100,000 a year in the designated EOC reserves,” Riddle said. “We’re projecting to spend that entire $400,000. In January of this year, the City Council allocated $205,000 towards the project and that was kind of phase one and just very recently at a September council meeting, they allocated an additional $195,000 for the remaining upgrades.”

Riddles said the investment is going to be well-worth the money spent because the EOC is the “focal point” for any disaster.

“The Emergency Operations Center is the focal point,” he said. “This is where decisions are made. This is where the city manages an incident. So if a disaster we’re to occur, an earthquake, it allows city officials, fire department staff, police department staff, really all staff, to come together to evaluate how bad the situation is and to continue to run the city. We look at it as we are preparing for, to respond to, and to recover from, a potential disaster. The recent wildfires are a good example, if that we’re to affect us. We could run the entire city from here. That is what having an adequate EOC will do.”

Riddle also said city officials have been discussing upgrading the equipment and the furniture to today’s standards as well increase the ability to communicate more effectively for years.

“One of the most important components of an effective EOC is being able to communicate,” Riddle said. “A large portion of  the cost of these upgrades are with the IT component. This is basically going to be a smart wall with upgraded TV monitors, phone lines, internet connections. This will be giving us the best chance possible with new portable radios, new mobile radios, and new HAM radios. The whole point is to give us the best possible way to continue to communicate with our residents.”

Riddle said in summation that So Pas residents made it known that disaster preparedness was a top priority. This upgrade, he added, will do just that.

“There was an opportunity to bring this up to industry standards with redundant processes where we would be able to withstand any disaster, whether it was an earthquake or whatever emergency we have to face. We are ready.”

Steve Whitmore
Author

Steve Whitmore is the editor for the South Pasadena Review. Steve has spent more than four decades as an award-winning print and broadcast journalist with a 16-year stint as the senior media advisor for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Steve comes to us from the Keene Sentinel in Keene, New Hampshire, where he covered politics and was a columnist.

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