A model for the country

Published 6:00 am Saturday, July 12, 2008

Former Alabama Emergency Management Director Danny Cooper said the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) in Clanton was model that could be used for all state emergency management agencies.

He still believes that today.

“This new facility is a prototype for the rest of the country,” Cooper said to those gathered in the EMA’s new press conference room.

The EMA held an open house to celebrate the opening of the new building adjacent to the SEOC. Gov. Bob Riley, the EMA staff and numerous others were on hand to cut the ribbon officially dedicating the new building.

“Of emergency management agencies today, there is no better program anywhere than [that in] our state,” Riley said.

Riley said the state finally has the kind of office space to handle all of the state, federal and private agencies necessary in an emergency situation.

“We could hold only two press conferences a day during an emergency. Now, we can use [the press conference room] to give continuous updates,” Riley said.

In addition to keeping the state informed during an emergency, current EMA director Brock Long said they can use the facility to train local emergency management directors.

“We can web cast training sessions using this room to emergency personnel across the state,” Long said.

Riley believes the new facility will help improve local emergency response. To aid with that, the press conference room also doubles as a classroom equipped with a camera able to videoconferencing with local EMA directors.

“In every county, we want to raise the level of emergency management – not just by hiring new personnel, but making sure we have proper training for emergency officials in all 67 counties,” Riley said. “We can do that from this room.”

In addition to the classroom, the new building also houses the office’s information technology department, preparedness division, chemical stockpile emergency preparedness program, technical hazards and natural hazards.

That has since opened up additional space in the SEOC for more agencies to be involved in the discussion during an emergency.

“With this new facility, we will continue to be the best state EMA in the country,” Riley said.