EAGLE - The newly cleaned-out basement of the Eagle County Building came in handy last week when the Eby Creek fire erupted June 28.
"It was like clockwork - they opened up an EOC (emergency operations center) Thursday night that remained open until Saturday," said Eagle County Manager Keith Montag. "I was so impressed."
The basement emergency operations center is currently a "cold center," meaning that the equipment is stored until it is needed. The space used last week is also used as a classroom. The county hopes to create a "warm" emergency operations center in the basement by sometime around October and has been clearing out boxes old files that formerly occupied the space. A warm center is one in which the equipment is already set up but is not permanently staffed.
The possibility for a warm emergency operations center in the county basement hinges on a $100,000 Federal Emergency Management Agency grant that would require the county to match it with the same amount.
"We're pretty confident we're going to get it," said Eagle County Public Works Director Tom Johnson. "We'll know in the next few weeks."
Eagle County Emergency Management Director Barry Smith said a warm emergency operations center would be useful.
"We would use the equipment a lot more if it wasn't stored in boxes," Smith said. "A cold EOC only takes 20 minutes to set up but that is more time than it takes to flip a light switch."
Smith said a warm emergency operations center would have been useful during the structure fire in Avon and is really helpful at times like now when multiple emergencies are happening.
"Dispatch was receiving multiple 911 calls for different fires when the Eby Creek fire happened," Smith said. "Each 911 call is a priority, so when a dispatcher is overwhelmed with multiple 911 calls, he has to take those calls before he contacts the power company to tell it to shut off power to an area where there is a fire. An EOC can take over on those kinds of calls and save time."
Regarding the old files being cleared out to make room for the emergency operations center, Assistant County Manager Rachel Oys assured that they are either being moved to a side room or "purged according to file-retention policies."
To learn more about the emergency operations plan, go to the county website at www.eaglecounty.us/Emergency/Emergency_Operations_Plan/.