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Hurricane Season 2024

Eye on Orange County: Emergency Operations Center modernized for hurricane season


With an “extremely active” hurricane season predicted for 2024, the Office of Emergency Management is laser-focused on preparing for the saving of lives, protection of property, and recovery from the effects of an emergency or disaster. The Emergency Operations Center (EOC) got a major upgrade to provide everything necessary to ensure exceptional operations.

“The building’s original layout was built in 2001, so optimizing space and upgrading technology and security were our three main priorities when redesigning the space,” said Lauraleigh Avery, Emergency Manager, Office of Emergency Management, Orange County Fire Rescue Department.

Originally designed for 40 staff members, the new and improved operations center now has room for more than 100. Additionally, three large breakout rooms were added to hold another 30 responders, plus a few smaller breakout rooms to provide additional workspace for at least four people in each room. Altogether, the operations center can now comfortably accommodate at least 126 people.

The EOC has upgraded technology to provide situational awareness well into the future. The new technology allows the team to closely monitor impending severe weather and damage using drone and traffic footage viewable in each room as well as link with other Emergency Operation Centers and the National Weather Service. This data is consolidated into a central information platform for tracking all elements of preparation, response, and recovery, before during and after storms.

“It’s about system optimization and having the tools that enhance visibility and connectivity,” explained Chief Avery. “When we do a briefing now, the primary floor is connected to all our partners, so if there’s a press conference going on, we can put it up so staff can continue to work in their rooms and not have to come to the main area. Everyone will know what’s going on across the entire County in real-time.”

The security of the building was also addressed in the event of an active shooter. “We’re considered a critical infrastructure, not only the people who work in the EOC and 911 centers, but the entire staff that supports operations, so we need to properly protect everyone,” stressed Chief Avery.

To further prepare residents for hurricane season, Orange County is hosting its free annual Hurricane Expo on June 15 at West Orange High School from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Participants will be able to have one-on-one meetings with Emergency Management staff and responders, attend a hurricane seminar, and get free preparedness items including weather radios at the event.

“We work hard to provide information, training and outreach so residents can prepare prior to hurricane season, well ahead of the storms,” explained Chief Avery. “We have a lot of new residents living here now, and the concern is they aren’t as aware of hurricanes and what damage they can inflict, so our goal is to get the messaging out to all of our citizens and visitors as effectively as possible.”

To stay updated on emergencies and other important community news, go to OC Alert and sign up now. For hurricane preparedness and recovery information, visit Emergency Information.

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