An emergency operations center: Yakima's new approach towards em - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

An emergency operations center: Yakima's new approach towards emergency preparation

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YAKIMA, WA - It's hard to prepare for a natural disaster. In Yakima, this was clear back in March when flooding devastated homes and businesses. The City is now taking a new approach at preparation: an emergency operations center.

"If we have another major flood event like we had this past spring, we're in a better position to respond to the public and get public safety out there," said Charles Erwin, emergency management specialist.

The center is located in the second floor of the police department. The facility has work areas for four major city agencies: police, fire, public works, and code enforcement.

"Fire would look over at police, police would look at fire, public works is saying, 'oh, we've got to block off this road,' so then it comes here, they pick up the phone and they make it happen," said Erwin.

Maps will help in their preparation. Some show past flooding, others assess the risk a natural disaster could have. Facility operation is based on a three-level system, three being the lowest and one the highest. At level one, the center will be fully activated. This means the city has exhausted their capabilities. If a disaster is severe, the system changes.

"We are not going to wait until it gets that big," Erwin said. "If we see the conditions, which we know, we are going to immediately go to a full activation of the center."

Grants, including one from Homeland Security, funded the facility. The center still needs some finishing touches, but if necessary, it could go into operation today. The City hopes to start training city workers and officials in the next thirty days in case of any November flooding.

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