New EOC to be built in Sarasota - WFLA News Channel 8

New EOC to be built in Sarasota

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Future EOC in Sarasota Future EOC in Sarasota
SARASOTA COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

Whenever a major storm strikes, an Emergency Operations Center plays a vital role in keeping communities safe.

But Sarasota County's EOC is in desperate need of a new facility.

County Commissioners just approved a new $18 million project that will solve that problem.   

A big, beige building off Ringling Boulevard in downtown Sarasota becomes a command center during an emergency.

Whenever a large storm strikes, the Emergency Operations Center is activated.

Inside the building, 911 dispatchers work overtime and local agencies converge and work together to help those need it.

The current building was built in the 1960s and was formerly occupied by a phone company. Officials set up the EOC there in 1994 and later realized, the building was not strong enough to handle a category five hurricane.

 So whenever a large storm strikes, the EOC relocates to nearby Wilkinson Elementary School.
Sarasota County Fire Chief Mike Tobias said, "It's not a real sustainable operation to be that way."

So County Commissioners approved a solution. On Tuesday they gave the go-ahead for a new $18 million facility.

It will be two stories tall with 39-thousand square feet of space....and it'll be built to withstand a category five hurricane.

Chief Tobias says that means there will be no need for a backup EOC.

Tobias said, "It'll be able to provide the continuity of operations for the government and all of our sister agencies that we'll need in the event of a hurricane."

Tobias says it takes time for federal authorities to come in and help during emergencies so it's vital that local agencies have a strong, safe location to work in.

He said, "This is going to help us become self sustaining and provide the services that the citizens of Sarasota county need in the event of something like that."

The new EOC will also be close to the interstate, so agencies will have easy access to help people across the whole county.

Also, the county's 911 dispatch center will work out of there year round.

"It's going to be phenomenally easier. But it's not just the easiness; it's also the survivability, the sustainability. We're able to make sure we have a continuity of government because that's what the people are going to be looking for in the event something like that happens," said Tobias.

County commissioners also approved funding to update the radio system used by first responders.

The radios in use now are 18 years old.

A new system should be installed within 18 months.

The new EOC is a big project with safety in mind, and the new facility should open in March 2015.

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