Improvements in Emergency Management - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Improvements in Emergency Management

July 7, 2004

Albany- They had a big job to do. "There was life and death out here on the other end of the phone lines," said Albany Fire Department chief James Carswell of the Emergency Operating Center during the Floods of 1994.

From a cramped Emergency Operating Center, they were sending heroes to save people caught in the raging floodwaters. Carswell remembers, "There's a lot of stress level when you're sending you're own people out in those environments and you didn't know whether they would make it back or not."

The room at the Albany fire department wasn't designed for handling such a major task, but since the flood of 94' improvements have been made. "They have a space where they can get in there and work," says Jim Vaught, deputy director of the Albany Dougherty Emergency Management Agency. The new theatre seating style room is set up as a command center, and is where all department heads and their assistants will make important decisions. "Everybody can actually make eye contact with the person giving the information,"says Carswell.

Other decisions makers are just a few steps away. "Your mayor, your county commissioners, your chair, your city and county administrators,"explained Vaught.

There's also a work area for the media. "Very important for the local population to understand what is going on, try to keep down those speculations that get people to misunderstand what is actually happening."

Lap top computer hookups will allow information to be projected onto a wide screen in the front of the room. "It's the fastest means possible instead of using the old stubby pencil and paper," remembers Vaught.

The Albany 9-1-1 center is right next door, taking calls and monitoring on a much more advanced weather alert system, the conditions outside.

The new Emergency Operating Center is located at the Albany Dougherty Judicial Building. In the event, a disaster takes that command center out, it will be moved to the Dougherty County Jail.

A new radio system was also purchased. It allows emergency workers to communicate with each other on one channel.

Carswell says "Hopefully in the future it wouldn't catch us by surprise," in hopes their improvements will help catch all those in danger before it's too late.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency just recently approved the Albany Dougherty Pre-Disaster Mitigation Plan. With that, comes a great deal of financial resources to implement further improvements.

Posted by jennifer.hulsey@walb.com at 6:22 PM.