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The EOC: What Is This Mystical Place? (Part II)

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An in-depth look at the EOC

Last time, I covered EOC’s purpose during a disaster and also the people who work in the EOC. Here in Part II, I will discuss some of the organizational structures utilized in emergency operations centers (EOCs).

Personnel working in the EOC should be familiar with the organizational structure prior to being assigned during a disaster, as the organization will dictate how information flows and processes within the EOC. You would not start at the fire department by going into a large apartment fire. Instead, you would have training on your equipment and procedures first.

The ESF organization

At the federal level, the EOC is designed in the Emergency Support Function (ESF) layout. This format utilizes the National Response Framework, which task certain ESF’s with certain supporting functions.

For example, ESF 4 is firefighting and ESF 9 is search and rescue with certain agencies acting as the primary agency and other agencies providing a supporting role. In addition, there is an ESF coordinator who coordinates all of the agencies in relation to the emergency support function.  IN the instance of [Link url="https://www.fema.gov/pdf/emergency/nrf/nrf-esf-09.pdf" title="ESF 9"], the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and/or FEMA is the coordinating agency.

The ICS organization

As discussed in part I of this series, the local EOC is often utilized as an area command in addition to the EOC. The Incident Command System (ICS) organization at the EOC will help facilitate these dual roles.

At the local level EOC, limited resources must be coordinated between numerous incidents within the area served by the EOC. For example in the state of Ohio, each county has an EOC and these EOC’s report to the state-level EOC. When organized in the ICS function, the planning and logistics sections are the most important and critical sections within the EOC, as the onslaught of resources needed and requested must be tracked and matched with the common operating picture. 

After order, logistics must support all of the resources and personnel requested. This is not typical in day-to-day operations.

Part III

In the third part of the series, I will cover the hybrid and begin to discuss what actions must be taken early in the EOC activation and operation.

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Randall Hanifen Dr. Hanifen serves as a shift commander at a medium-sized suburban fire department in the northern part of the Cincinnati area. Randall is the CEO/principal consultant of an emergency services consulting firm, providing analysis and solutions related to organizational structuring of fire and EMS organizations. He is the chairperson and operations manager for a county technical rescue team. from a state and national perspective, he serves as a taskforce leader for one of FEMA's urban search and rescue teams, which responds to presidential declared disasters. From an academic standpoint, Randall has a bachelor’s degree in fire administration, a master’s degree in executive fire service leadership, and a doctoral degree in business administration with a specialization in homeland security. He is the associate author of “Disaster Planning and Control” (Penwell, 2009), which provides first responders with guidance through all types of disasters.