Information gathering is one function that takes place at the EOC. Again, return to the fire at the warehouse. The fire representative at the EOC can obtain additional information about the building construction, building materials (especially the hazardous materials), and meet with the health officials about the incident. These activities provide important information, but do not interfere with the incident command. Additional information gathering, which is necessary for any disaster recovery funding application that the municipality will submit, is also performed at the EOC and will be recorded and stored there.
Another activity that can be performed at the EOC is public information disbursement. This is the most important function that is accomplished at the EOC. If officials need to inform the public to "shelter in place," to evacuate, or any other information that may be needed, it can be performed from the EOC. Another advantage of EOC activation is that media coverage can be controlled: the Public Information Officer can respond to the EOC and disperse the appropriate information to the media. Additionally, activation of the EOC can keep the politicians away from the incident (I can say this because my wife is one). Departmental SOPs should be written to include a provision that the Mayor or his designee responds to the EOC to take on the role of spokesperson for the other governmental officials.
As mentioned above, coordination of the various organizations responding to the EOC is an essential element. As a Fire Officer, I would rather have the outside agencies respond to the EOC than to my Command Post. This centrally located EOC can host all the towns' disciplines (including, for example, representatives from the Red Cross, utility companies, and other local government agencies, such as police, road department, engineering, sanitation) and report to me, via the fire department representative. Keeping all these agencies together and involved, yet, not at the incident, is important to preventing the interruption of command and control.
In the next article, I will describe additional duties of the EOC and the fire department's role in the Emergency Operation Center. For additional information about EOC activation, you may contact me at Paul.Malool@fema.gov