By Coastal Breeze News Staff
Collier County Commissioner Donna Fiala offers residents an opportunity to learn about the community in which they live through a number of interesting tours. These tours are limited in size and have been so popular each has had a wait list of interested participants.
Recently, the slate of tours included a visit to Collier County’s Emergency Services Center. The facility is located at 8075 Lely Cultural Parkway just behind the South Regional Library. Once through the entry gate, one must pass through a security area complete with x-ray screening like those in airports. The facility is dedicated to the late County Manager James V. Mudd, who was instrumental in the vision and comprehensive planning of the building along with Collier County Emergency Management Director, Dan Summers, who led the tour. The $56 million project began in 1999 and officially opened in 2009.
The planning was incredible. The 111,000 square foot structure was built to withstand 175 MPH winds. Key operations are located 21’ above a ‘Level 3’ storm surge. Generators will allow the building to be self sufficient for up to 14 days. It houses the Collier County Sheriffs 911 center. It serves as an East Naples Sheriffs Sub-Station, Collier County EMS Administration and Training area and an ambulance supply warehouse. One of the main features of the building is the Emergency Call Center. It is a large room with three rows of workstations. Each station has a sign indicating an area of service, Marco Island, Everglades City, Ochopee, etc. Each workstation has two telephone lines (16 total), computer access and radio system connections. Every call and event is logged and is viewed in real time. The log of calls can be followed on the desktop monitor or one of the ten screens around the room. Not only is the center capable of receiving broadcasts from other emergency centers, NOAA and the National Hurricane Center, satellite communication is available in the event of a major breakdown of land based systems. Sprint, Nextel and Verizon supply service to the building and satellite phones ensure constant communications if all else fails.
There is a press briefing room which includes a multitude of audio/video connections and state of the art communications technology including a Collier County ‘live TV’ studio. Interesting to note, there are 90 miles of cable throughout the building. Specialized rooms around the main call area include an IT room, FEMA room, a Tactical EMS room with maps and radios, a logistics room, a room for the County Manager and City partners, and other counties such as Charlotte, Lee, Glades and Hendry. There is a small kitchen and sleeping area. Florida Power and Light and Lee County Electric Cooperative have a breakout room. Among the specialized rooms for law enforcement, health services, fire services, there are dedicated areas for the Coast Guard and the Civil Air Patrol, just to name a few. Federal teams can be upstairs in the mezzanine but control remains under local authority. Antennas on the roof can pick up Collier County radio transmissions, but if a team (i.e.: the Georgia National Guard) comes into the area to assist during an emergency, the building is capable of working with any radio system. Cameras on top of antennas can pick up such events as wildfires or communicate with aircraft such as Collier County Sheriffs helicopters or airplanes in the area.
The garage houses 19 trailers filled with emergency supplies. Each trailer can set up a shelter in an hour’s time. According to Summers, the trailers have been designed with a wide range of scenarios in mind. The Collier County emergency trailer system has won national awards. Successful planning is evident when outside agency colleagues ask for a trailer like “the Collier County trailer.”
The call center received 247,000 calls last year of which 125,700 were emergency 911 calls. The 911 call center is on another floor of the building. The responsibility and intensity required of a 911 operator is challenging. Estimates indicate that only one good candidate out of ten applicants will complete training to take the position. 911 operators work 12 hour shifts, three and a half days per week.
There is 24/7 threat monitoring. Every possible scenario, every possible agency needed to assist in recovery has been accounted for in this building. Training is constant. Officials from other agencies come to Collier County to train and employees of Collier County go to other facilities in other counties to train.
We can rest assured that years of planning have resulted in a state-of-the-art Emergency Operations Services facility that houses highly trained personnel to protect and serve us in times of need.