Mountlake Terrace building emergency response center

MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — The city has received a $250,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security to build a state-of-the-art Emergency Operations Center.

City officials say they hope to open the new center by late 2012 or early 2013.

“Quite frankly it’s a minor miracle,” said city manager John Caulfield. “This greatly enhances our ability to respond to disasters and localized and regionalized events.”

These events include snow and ice conditions and accidents on the freeway.

Roughly $14 million in grant funding was distributed nationally, said Curt Brees, the city’s public works director. As part of the grant application, the city offered $100,000 to match grant funds.

Brees said the city was a strong contender for the grant because of its dense population and proximity to busy I-5. The city’s partnership with the Emergency Services Coordinating Agency — which coordinates emergency responses in south Snohomish and north King counties — also helped bolster their application.

The Emergency Operations Center is to be built inside vacant office space at city property located at 6204 215th St. The Public Works, Parks Services and Fleet Management departments are housed there.

“It will increase the speed of our response and place more resources in the field,” Brees said. “In a disaster, we’ll get resources here faster.”

The center was included in earlier estimates for the proposed Civic Campus that voters rejected in November 2010. Earlier this summer, the City Council mulled revised costs to the tune of $25 million, or $12.5 million less than what was submitted to voters last year.

The center is expected to serve as a central command and control post for managing emergencies and ensuring people continue to receive government services. Staff will have access to communications equipment to connect with 911 dispatch and state officials, supplies and data.

“We’d unlock the door and have everything ready to use,” Brees said. “If an earthquake hit we’d be operating within 30 minutes from walking inside, that’s the goal.”

The center also would serve as backup to the Emergency Services Coordinating Agency, and a place for neighboring officials to meet needs in south Snohomish and north King counties, Brees said.

During events, such as intense snowstorms, staff operated out of the Mountlake Terrace Library’s multipurpose room, which involved setting up equipment before staff could use it.

The next steps involve forming a project group made up of Brees, members from the Emergency Services Coordinating Agency, Fire District 1, and the city’s police, IT and Facilities Maintenance departments to flush out project objectives.

Mountlake Terrace is one of 10 cities which partners with Emergency Services Coordinating Agency to coordinate emergency responses during disasters. Other partners include Lynnwood and Edmonds.

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