Cumberland Times-News

Local News

September 4, 2013

Garrett EOC hits hurdles before opening

OAKLAND — An emergency operations center proposed at the Garrett County Airport has hit a few snags and isn’t operational yet, according John Frank III, county director of emergency management.

The county roads department and public utilities have been working to get fiber optics to the center.

“This is a very important link for an emergency operations center to be able to have  ... the fiber optics and the capability of interoperability with federal and state agencies,” said Frank during Tuesday’s commission meeting.

“It is just something I’m really, really concerned about being able to have ... because we put a lot of investment in it.”

There has been some difficulty getting the fiber optics from a pole to the airport, as well as issues coordinating with the power and phone companies, according to Frank.

“The next problem, once we get it up to the building, is to tie it in and hook it up with the phone system,” said Frank.

The conduit for the fiber optics is encased in concrete and a new conduit was started but not completed.

If a subcontractor is needed for the project it could cost $100,000 or more, according to Frank.

“I’m not sure where we would be able to come up with that,” said Frank.

Once the fiber optics is installed, the EOC will have 22 stations with phones and Internet, according to Frank.

The center will have improved communication capabilities once the countywide broadband project is complete.

The EOC was created in the wake of Superstorm Sandy so that the county could be better prepared for emergency situations.

October marks the anniversary of the storm.

Commissioner Jim Raley indicated that he and County Administrator Monty Pagenhardt would like to be updated on the status of the fiber optics at the EOC.

“If we are running into hurdles we may have to go another route,” said Raley. “From my vantage point, I want to see that project completed before the real heart of inclement weather. I think it’s something critical that needs to be in place this year.”

Previously, a makeshift command center at the courthouse was used.

A generator is also needed and generators have been approved for the airport and the former Dennett Road Elementary School.

Frank has applied to the Maryland Emergency Management Agency for a grant for the generators. During Superstorm Sandy some generators failed.

In other Department of Public Safety news, Frank asked for the commissions to adopt an EOC essential staff policy and to support a Mid-Atlantic Communications Partnership governance.

The staff will be comprised of 19 individuals who are essential during an emergency situation, according to Frank.

In the event of a full-scale activation, all primary and support agencies will be notified via email.

In addition to the staff being notified of all EOC activations, members are required to attend a minimum of two training sessions and/or exercise events per year.

The training sessions will be coordinated by Frank.  

The MACP makes and implements decisions pertaining to interstate interoperability communications in the event of an act of terrorism or other disaster, according to its bylaws.

Plans and policies developed by the MACP will not interfere, contradict or supersede those developed by the states of West Virginia and Maryland.

Supporting the MACP governance would enhance the county’s ability to partner with West Virginia counties for mutual aid and to share communication assets.

Garrett County and Preston Count in West Virginia held a discussion about the possibility of placing a Garrett radio on the Gregg’s Knob radio tower site in Preston County, according to Frank.

It would allow the county do away with the Thayerville tower.

“It will enable us to have better communications in the Friendsville, Sang Run Road area,” said Frank. “This could potentially save us a lot of money in Garrett County.”

The Department of Public Safety will host a public safety day at the fairgrounds Oct. 19. The event will include a hose maze, K-9 and equipment demonstrations, helicopter tours and tours of fire trucks and the rescue squad.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at eblaisdell@times-news.com.

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