By Joseph Hamrick
The Commerce Journal
Editor’s note: this is the first in a three part series on the Emergency Operations Center.
Inside the Commerce Police Department sits a room filled with computers, televisions and radios that looks straight out of an episode of “CSI”.
The room is Commerce’s Emergency Operation Center (EOC), and it’s one of the most technologically advanced in north Texas.
“This works well with coordinating with the Greenville and Commerce hospitals,” Chris Vaughan, Emergency Management Coordinator for the CPD said. “Every agency in the county is connected with us.”
The police department was able to secure all of the equipment needed through three grants from the state and federal levels.
Through the EOC, the police department is able to use its outdoor warning, phone notification and cable override systems in case of any type of emergency.
“This is a support tool for the commander at the scene for any emergency,” he said. “We coordinate with school districts for buses under emergency situations.”
During periods of inclement weather, such as the storms that the one that occurred on Feb. 9, the EOC is able to be in contact with members of the Sabine Valley Amateur Radio Association, who act as storm watchers for the county.
The EOC has a direct chat line with the National Weather Service to provide them with weather information in the county.
“It’s how the National Weather Service gets information,” he said, adding that the EOC is in constant contact with the state capital and other traffic nets in the area.
Behind the police station stands a 60 foot tall tower, also secured through a grant. The tower allows the EOC to be in contact with any radio that tunes into its frequency in the county.
Vaughan said the EOC has played a vital role during several emergencies the city and county has faced in the five years it’s been in operation.
The EOC coordinated rescue teams during severe flooding in 2007, spread information about preparing for the H1N1 and West Nile Viruses and warned the public about tornados that hit in and around Commerce each year for the past three years.
The EOC recently coordinated Texas Department of Safety responders to the shooting of Kaufman County Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse.
The EOC hosts various emergency and operation classes open to the public.
The next class will be storm spotter training that will be hosted by the National Weather Service inside the Fletcher Warren Civic Center from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 28.