SCP emergency operations center dangerously outdated
Shonna Riggs - Apr 12, 2007
Construction of a spacious new five-story emergency operations center that’s been proposed for St. Charles Parish won’t come a minute too soon for emergency operations chief Tab Troxler.
Although the EOC response team is well prepared for any emergency, says Troxler, conditions are so bad in the cramped quarters in the basement of the courthouse on River Road in Hahnville that a Katrina-like storm could shut down the equipment they need to do their jobs.
Communications would break down in no time flat, he warned - and parish residents would be on their own. That includes families with small children, people without transportation to evacuate, even vulnerable senior citizens and homebound patients would be helpless with no emergency personnel to turn to.
“The EOC office has been in the basement of the parish courthouse since 1976, and back then, when the population was smaller and we had fewer plants and better levee protection, that might have been okay,” Troxler said.
Troxler hopes a proposal to build a new facility will come sooner than 2010 - the year that’s been “floated” for its completion.
And he is actively seeking funding to get the project under way.
During the course of an exclusive interview, Troxler walked down a ramped hallway that leads into a small room where extension cords and a Medusa’s head of wires and plugs keep electricity flowing to $3 million worth of emergency equipment.
“We need more electrical circuits to power our equipment,” said Troxler, shaking his head worriedly.
Troxler said the room should be 55 degrees or less at all times to keep the department’s critical computer systems from overheating.
“Right now this room is 75 degrees,” he continued. “If it gets past 80 degrees our systems could fail.
Protecting the gear is a major concern. But Troxler worries about his people, too.
“When Hurricane Katrina hit we had to house emergency personnel from the sheriff’s office, fire departments, water department and others,” he said.
“Imagine 60 people staying here with one bathroom and one shower, and a kitchen with no ventilation - it was difficult.
“When desperate residents came here seeking shelter, we had to turn them away because there wasn’t enough room for our own personnel.”
The new EOC facility that Troxler hopes will be approved, funded and built has been proposed as a five-story structure that includes two floors of above-ground parking with three floors - 15,000 square feet - of office space.
Other design features on the drawing board are a conference room that would seat 60 people, a parking garage for police, ambulance, and other emergency vehicles, and office suites for individual departments.
“The cost of the project is somewhere between $6 million and $9 million,” Troxler said.
Reach Shonna Riggs at firstname.lastname@example.org
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