What is the emergency operation's center?


April 9, 2020

You may be wondering what goes on in the emergency operations center (EOC) during a pandemic. Think of it as the nerve center for the incident.

Response and the cost are planned. Decisions are made. Information is gathered and sent out to the media and public.

Resources are found, tracked and allocated. Many meetings are held (virtually) with county officials and other partners.

There are laughs, frustrations and tears. There are long hours. There are successes and joys.

We are following the National Incident Command System (NIMS) during this pandemic response. Consider this a general chain of command.

Within this system is the incident command system (ICS). This breaks down the chain of command into five major functional positions, staffed as needed.

These are Command, Operations, Planning, Logistics and Finance/Administration. In a nutshell, we will explain what we are doing.

Each position has its own job. Let’s talk about the incident commander (IC) first. Some of the things this person is responsible for are knowing agency policy, setting priorities, determining incident objectives and strategies, authorizing information to the media and approving resource requests.

The IC will determine how many more positions need to be activated in order for the response to be carried out. Not all of the positions are activated in the public health EOC at this time. The great thing about ICS is the system can be increased or decreased as needed.

One position they can designate is a public information officer (PIO). The PIO is responsible for accurate and timely information for use in press/media/social media briefings, obtaining the IC’s approval of news releases, and maintaining current information on the incident. The PIO also attends a state conference call twice weekly.

Another position we have open now is planning. The planning section is responsible for providing planning services for the incident.

This section collects situation and resources status information, evaluates it and processes the information for use in developing action plans. They supervise the preparation of the incident action plan and lead the planning meetings.

The logistics section provides all incident support needs such as communications, supplies, transportation, facilities and all off-incident resources. They also participate in planning meetings and oversee demobilization of resources.

The operations section is responsible for managing the tactical operations – think the boots on the ground people. They help develop strategies to successfully respond to the incident.

Our operations section is very limited at this point in the response. Once there is a vaccine available, we will put this section into full swing and run a “flu” clinic operation.

The last position we have opened is the finance/administration section. They handle all the financial aspects of the incident.

Every morning the EOC staff participates in a virtual meeting with the Wyoming Office of Homeland Security, Wyoming Department of Health, a Governor’s Office Representative, a representative from the Wyoming County Commissioners Association, National Weather Service, all county public health offices, all county emergency managers and any other agency invited to bring information. Questions are answered, counties and state can discuss information, concerns and best practices.

We know that we will have the Public Health EOC set up for many more months to come. We will adapt our objectives and strategies depending on how the situation changes.

If you would like to learn more about the National Incident Command System or Incident Command System, you can check out online courses at training.fema.gov/is.


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