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Touring a Building Designed to Withstand a Category 5 Hurricane

5:43 PM, Jul 26, 2011   |    comments
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CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- Almost every county has an emergency operations center, but Clay County's is state of the art and just opened in April.

"While we tend to think of hurricanes, we also have to be prepared for tornados or other natural disaster like flooding," said Chief Lorin Mock, Clay County's emergency manager.

MORE: Jacksonville Weather 

The building is designed to withstand a Category 5 hurricane. Metal grates cover the windows, preventing glass and debris from flying in. However, it is unusual for an EOC to even have windows.

MORE: Interactive Stormtrack iMAP

"I'm told the architects designed it that way. They're using a lot of natural light to limit the amount of lighting we have to provide for the facility," Mock explained.

The most striking addition may be a three-story-tall folding gate on the front of the building.

"This gate is merely building protection," Mock explained. "It's built in to drop over the glass, again adding natural light."

It's hurricane protection that lowers and covers the face of the facility.

The new Clay County EOC  -- which is located near the fairgrounds -- cost $7.6 million. Federal grants and some county matched funds paid for it. Many counties in the area revamped or rebuilt their EOC buildings after the storms in 2004.

Metal grating also protects an exterior stairwell at the EOC.  The stairwell is needed so personnel can access weather and communication devices on the top of the building.

That ability to communicate is key.  It's what happens in the main room of the EOC.  County personnel will work out of the command room which is full of desks, phones, and large screens which show radar, internet, and TV news programs.  The staff will monitor the storm and guide rescue efforts to people who need assistance.

It's really the heartbeat of the EOC.

"The heartbeat is getting that blood out to the citizens and meeting those needs," Mock said, "because if the needs aren't met -- what we do in here is non-functional." 


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