Fla. county’s new EOC will be built for Category 5 hurricanes
Miami-Dade County’s new Emergency Operations Center will have a 12-story fortified bunker for offices and emergency vehicles
By Catherine Odom
MIAMI — Miami-Dade County will soon have a new emergency command center designed to keep the county running during even the most powerful hurricanes.
On Thursday, the County Commission voted unanimously and without discussion to approve a resolution awarding a $212 million contract to Suffolk Construction Company Inc., to design and build a new Emergency Operations Center, which is expected to be completed in three years.
The new integrated command and communications center will be located in Sweetwater. The building will include a 12-story fortified bunker to house government offices and emergency vehicle parking, among other emergency preparedness features.
The facility will be connected to the county’s Lightspeed Facility by a pedestrian footbridge. The Lightspeed Facility houses 911 and 311 operators, the county’s Real Time Crime Center as well as other communication systems.
Some departments will work out of the new Emergency Operations Center all the time, not just during emergencies, said Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. This will include parts of the Fire Department and the Department of Emergency Management.
The current Emergency Operations Center, which is located in Doral and includes the county’s Fire Rescue headquarters, will become the backup command center after the new facility is built. That facility is only rated for Category 4 storms, said Greg Rubin, an assistant fire chief.
“This one will provide Category 5 protection,” said Alex Muñoz, the director of Internal Services, the department that builds and manages county buildings.
The current Emergency Operations Center in Doral dates back to the late 1990s, Muñoz said.
“The EOC was OK 20 years ago, but it’s not today,” Muñoz said. “We’re at that point where we need all these other improvements.”
Rubin said the Emergency Operations Center and Fire Rescue headquarters were initially rated for Category 3 storms but have undergone improvements since then. He added that there have been no safety issues during storms at that facility.
The current backup facility is a bunker Muñoz estimated dates to the late 1950s, which he called “woefully inadequate to serve as a great backup for us.”
The Emergency Operations Center will include three floors of office space and nine floors of parking for emergency response vehicles and other essential equipment. The Sweetwater facility will also feature eight-inch reinforced walls designed to hold up against Category 5 storms and a helicopter pad. An antenna on the building’s roof will allow radio signals for first responders to be broadcast throughout the county.
The facility also includes 100,000 square feet of shell space between the furnished interior of the building and the exterior wall. The building itself contains 300,000 square feet of furnished space in addition to the shell.
Muñoz added that building a new, up-to-date facility will make the county’s emergency operations more efficient and allow other departments and entities “to be at the table.” For instance, the National Weather Service will have space at the new facility.
The new command center would allow the county to follow the “unified command approach” more efficiently, Muñoz said. This is the federal model for responding to disasters.
The new integrated command and communications center is designed for “continuity of government.” That means the County Commission will be able to meet at this facility under emergency conditions.
This is especially important as the county faces challenges related to climate change, said Levine Cava.
“We’re facing a future in which there is more frequent extreme weather. We need to ensure continuity of government,” said Levine Cava. “So looking ahead, it is good practice to be prepared.”