Editor's Note: Our guest columnist this month is Tyson Hill, Senior Director for Risk Management and Safety Services and also serving as the Director for the Emergency Operations Center (EOC)
I hope you and your family are safe, healthy, and doing well during this unprecedented Sonoma County Shelter in Place Order. I would also like to thank you for doing your part in sheltering, to help flatten the curve of COVID-19 in our local area and the commitment to keeping our healthcare professionals safe by doing so.
We are currently running a virtual Emergency Operations Center (EOC) for Sonoma State University. First thing you’ll want to understand about the EOC, is there are a million acronyms used! The National Incident Management System (NIMS) which is part of FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) the requires using the methodology of the Incident Command System (ICS) when operating an EOC to help us manage any human-made or natural disaster. The ICS is a “…structure that allows for cooperative response by multiple agencies… to organize and coordinate response activities without compromising the decision-making authority of local command.”*
The EOC uses components of ICS to help us mitigate all emergencies with subject expert flexibility. SSU utilized this process and format during the past two large area fires as well as the Public Safety Power Shutdowns. When applying the NIMS and ICS training and program, the EOC is broken into four (4) main sections: 1.) Planning and Intelligence; 2.) Operations; 3.) Logistics; and 4.) Finance. The EOC Director oversee these sections and helps coordinate the many diverse activities that are managed within an EOC. Each of these working sections has an assigned chief who can have teams who they utilize dependent upon each unique disaster and scenario. The NIMS requires all jurisdictions to utilize this process throughout the county to ensure that emergencies and local EOCs are handling these types of events in a coordinated and unified approach. California created much of this system years ago with the adoption of the Standardized Emergency Management System (SEMS). California was used to having many diverse emergencies and fire, police and paramedics saw a need to coordinate all activities jointly together to help mitigate these situations with a unified command. The Federal Government liked the approach so much that after the attacks of 911, they invested in this national approach. It is also important to utilize this process should a local jurisdiction want to seek federal reimbursement for certain approved activities and expenses through FEMA. SSU utilizes the EOC to handle an emergency at the most local level. If SSU needs resources that we cannot source on the open market or within our campus community, we look to Sonoma County’s operational area to lend assistance. If the operational area is inundated with requests, they can look to the regional state area for support. If the regional area is inundated, they look to the state, and the state looks to the federal government for assistance if they are overwhelmed. In a nutshell, this is how NIMS works throughout our government, and this is how local municipalities are attempting to mitigate COVID-19 relying heavily on local public health.
We would like to thank everyone again for their support during this disaster. The EOC is currently assisting areas of the campus that are working on repopulation planning, dependent on the many nuances of COVID-19. I look forward to seeing you all soon, and feel we are all blessed to work for such a wonderful educational place of learning that we call our home. #SSUstrong!