WAKE COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- Population growth and increasing frequency of severe weather events are two factors behind Wake County's move to open a new Emergency Operations Center.
Officials showed off the site Wednesday, offering tours of the expanded space.
"The last three years have really emphasized to us the importance of preparation, but it's also reinforced how important partnerships are in responding to crisis," said Wake County Commissioner Matt Calabria, who represents District 2.
The new site, located in the Waverly F. Akins Building in downtown Raleigh, is significantly larger than the prior location and features several technical upgrades.
"We had about 10% of our new capability in the old facility," said Joshua Creighton, Wake County's Emergency Management Director.
"(This has) a dedicated call center. Our community has the ability to call us when we have a disaster and emergency. Previously we would have to set all of that up on the fly," explained Darshan Patel, Wake County's Emergency Management Operations Manager.
Additional updates include a press area, enhanced lighting, breakout rooms, teleconference capabilities and private conference rooms.
"If agencies can't respond and recover due to a lack of communication or collaboration, the consequences can be life-threatening," explained Wake County Board of Commissioners Chair Shinica Thomas.
"All the non-governmental organizations, volunteers active in disasters like the Red Cross, we now have the space for them to come and participate face-to-face in our operation," noted Creighton.
In the middle of desks and tables is a large, multi-use monitor that showcases radar, traffic conditions, power outages, and can pull live traffic cameras.
"We can see wind, tornado, severe weather reports. So if we see a storm generating those kinds of things as it comes in, we know what to expect on our part as well as being able to really understand quickly what the impacts to our community are," Patel said.
While there are emergency management staffers who work year-round at a separate location, this center is activated during major events, ranging from hurricanes to massive fires.
"In particular Hurricane Florence, when we took evacuees from the coast into our jurisdiction and housed over 1,200 people from other jurisdictions, it really demonstrated to us the lack of the facilities capabilities," Creighton said.
The new location cost about $9 million to build out, which included $1 million in federal funding secured last March.