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Aspects of Emergency Operations Center Design

Emergency Operations Centers (EOC) are not typically staffed around the clock, however when a crisis occurs, these centers swing into action making them the focal point responsible for securing lives and property. Emergency operations centers can be found in the corporate environment and at both municipal and federal levels.

Each one of these organizational types requires an individualized approach to space planning, furnishings and audiovisual systems integration supporting the concept of operations.

Emergency Operations Center Design

Consider the following:

Location: The EOC can be located in either an existing or a dedicated facility. A dual purpose room is normally used for something other than emergency management on a day to day basis. Regardless of the environment, the facility should be located in a secure area with easy, but controlled access for staff and support. Given that an emergency can continue for days or weeks, there should be adequate stores or a plan and method to acquire them.

Structure: The physical plant makes up the room, or rooms within the EOC. The facility, large or small, should have back up power and communications. The room or rooms should have the ability to incorporate large screen video technology that can acquire and display a wide range of sources. These sources would typically include local TV, video conferencing, and spreadsheets for management of people and resources. There should also be specialized furnishings that are designed for computer and communications equipment. This furniture should be positioned in a fashion that allows for interaction between participants and the large screen audiovisual systems.

Functions: EOCs have common functions that include:

  • Gathering information
  • Creating emergency policies and instructions
  • Conducting training
  • Conducting operations management during emergencies
  • Insuring the safety of people and resources
  • Maintaining records and data management

Approaches to Emergency Operations Center Design

The organizational concept of operations drives the design of the EOC. EOCs are unique in size and functionality; there is no “one size fits all” solution. For this reason the emergency manager has the ability to develop a design in cooperation with staff, designer-manufacturers and construction professionals. The following are several approaches to emergency operations center design:

Traditional Command Center Layout: This is the typical amphitheater style layout. This layout consists of rows of participants facing forward and toward large video screens and speaker podium. Managers are usually situated behind the rows facing the same direction.

Single Room Layout: This approach is chosen by organizations that want to have all key staff situated in the same room. This provides the emergency manager a forum for communicating with everyone at the same time and allows all participants to see and communicate with each other. The single room layout will have tables or other furniture strategically placed within the room in rows or groups facing the large video wall screens.

Multiple Room Layout: This layout comprises one large centralized room surrounded by smaller rooms for staff break-out and conferencing. These rooms will typically have large displays connected to the central operations audiovisual system.

Dual-Purpose Room Layout: This room is used for more than one thing; therefore the furniture should accommodate both activities. The layout can vary depending on the shape and size of the room. There should be an audiovisual system that meets the day to day requirements as well as training and real-time emergency management.

Emergency managers consider all options and decide on the appropriate floor plan, furnishings and audiovisual systems to meet the needs and budget of the organization. Engaging an experienced designer-integrator that understands how all of these components come together in a cost-effect manner is critical to success. Americon is an experienced EOC furniture manufacturer and audiovisual systems integrator with designers, engineers, manufacturing and project management “under one roof”. All services are provided by in-house staff; nothing is sub-contracted. This means a package approach to requirements that speeds the acquisition process and reduces cost when all components are purchased at the same time.

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