By Wallace McBride, Fort Jackson LeaderNovember 15, 2013
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Last week, it took Fort Jackson's Emergency Operations Center 23 minutes to relocate and go online.
It was an experiment to see how quickly the post's EOC could respond to a disaster that would completely close down activities at its central office. A network of computers that connect Fort Jackson's many directorates with each other, as well as with the outside world, was disassembled and taken to the Directorate of Emergency Services building.
It took 23 minutes to transport dozens of computers from the EOC building to DES headquarters and get Fort Jackson's directorates back online. It's fair to say that Scottie Thomas, Fort Jackson's EOC chief, was pleased with the number, if not entirely happy with it.
"We're satisfied with it, but we'd like to have done it quicker," Thomas said. "We're always trying to improve. We really never lost communications because we used our cell phones to stay in touch with headquarters, TRADOC and IMCOM. We would like to improve on our 23 minutes, but that's a great time with jumping an entire office and making in functional at another location."
"It was seamless," said Mark Mallach, installation antiterrorism officer. "They coordinated ahead of time, and we already knew this was the alternate EOC site, the jump site, in case their building becomes inoperable. They did it in less than 30 minutes, which is pretty good especially when you consider what goes into moving an EOC."
The office was installing a new generator at the site of the dedicated EOC office, which was expected to leave them without power for 48 hours, he said. In the event of a power outage, the new generator will show a momentary 'blink' in service, he said, but will otherwise allow the staff to continue work at the main office.
The two days they would be without power offered the opportunity for them to test existing "jump plans" that determine how the office will relocate in the event of an emergency.
"A critical part of Fort Jackson's emergency management process is to establish an alternate Emergency Operations Center in the event that our primary center is damaged by man-made or natural disasters," Thomas said. "We planned to have a system where we could immediately move, expeditiously, to another location where we could continue to communicate to Fort Jackson, Big Army and outside agencies, warnings and alerts of imminent danger without a big interruption in communications."
EOC has fostered a relationship with the Directorate of Emergency Services, which is the hub for emergency management on post, he said. A conference room has been identified as a temporary EOC office that provides the necessary space and technical requirements for emergency operations management.
"Some analysis was done, and some proactive thinking, about where we did the data ports and telephone lines ahead of time," Thomas said. "So, where we do move here, it's just a matter of plugging and playing, and not interrupting anything in the emergency management process. If we were to have a tornado, which happens occasionally, the EOC is the hub of information where all the leaders would come to solve all of our issues and render support."
Thomas said command was happy with existing "jump plans," but that a practical test still had value.
"We didn't just want to put it down on paper," he said. "The hard work paid off. It's functional, and that's the most important thing for us. It's not as big as the primary EOC, but alternate EOC's are designed to move and have a structured, secure building."