Step Inside a Local Maryland EOC During Hurricane Sandy

November 1st, 2012

By Aatmaja Desai, CHHS Policy Analyst

Hurricane Sandy presented my first opportunity to be a part of an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) activation experience! I’m a policy analyst at CHHS and my current assignment is with Harford County.

 I won’t say I was not nervous but the excitement of the whole pre-storm environment had me thinking, “I belong here”. I wish the general public had an idea about what goes on behind the scenes to keep the community safe.  It is why the emergency management industry pushes the preparedness education piece so strongly.  The more knowledgeable you make your residents, the better prepared they are when an emergency occurs.

It takes a lot more than opening up the EOC and getting the various public and private sector representatives in their chairs. This is the time when the importance of planning becomes visible. Preparation for the EOC activation included several conference calls with various types of agencies inside and outside our jurisdiction. All-day staffing, food, sleeping arrangements and other logistical considerations were carefully being evaluated for the worst case scenario. Each person in the EOC was focused and passionate about their tasks. They were getting things at the highest efficiency level and doing so in spite of the stress. Here is a short list of what I learned from this experience:

1. Communication, whether with the public, personnel, or leadership (through phone, web-based platforms, one-on-one, media or social media), is a key element for managing any emergency.

2. Each person, each agency and each task is important for a successful response.

3. It all comes down to the inter-agency relationships and promoting a positive attitude. Both go a long way in improving the environment of the EOC and making sure you are effectively protecting the health, safety and welfare of an entire community.

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