UC Berkeley opens new Emergency Operations Center in Warren Hall

Michael Drummond/Senior Staff

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UC Berkeley’s new Emergency Operations Center, located in Warren Hall, officially opened Friday as part of a five-year plan to improve campus emergency response procedures.

The newly relocated center is the centralized facility where 30 administrators and experts will gather during earthquakes, power outages and other emergencies to coordinate the campus response. At the center’s grand opening, the Office of Emergency Management hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony and offered tours of the new center, which took more than a year to complete and cost around $70,000.

The five sections of the center are divided into two conference rooms in Warren Hall, which houses UC Berkeley’s data center and several units of the campus’s Information Services and Technology unit. One of the conference rooms is designated for management staff, operations and some planning personnel, and the other — only activated during major emergencies — is designated for logistics, finance and administration, and other planning personnel.

Each room consists of tables with more than a dozen phones and laptops. The center also has its own server and wireless access point, backup generators and connections to both campus and external phone lines as extra precautions.

The center was previously located in the basement of Barrows Hall since 1999 but was moved to Warren Hall because it is a more practical and seismically secure location, according to Mark Freiberg, executive director of the Office of Environment, Health & Safety, which provided funding and administrative support for the project.

“This is as close as we can get to guaranteeing that the EOC will be accessible and operating,” Freiberg said. “I don’t think any of us were really comfortable going in the basement of a high rise building during an earthquake.”

The relocation of the center was one of nearly 40 initiatives in a five-year strategic plan to improve emergency response drafted by the Office of Emergency Management in 2012.
According to Amina Assefa, manager of OEM, this initiative was one of the largest because it was so tangible and required coordination and support from several organizations, including Environment, Health & Safety, Information and Services Technology and Physical Plant Campus Services.

Ron Coley, associate vice chancellor of business and administrative services, spoke at the ceremony and described the newly completed center as a “labor of love” that was “worthy of Berkeley.” He added that, although there was still room for improvement, the campus is much better prepared than it was before the new center.

Despite officially opening Friday, the center in Warren Hall was partially activated during the Sept. 30 power outage and explosion on campus, an event Assefa described as a learning experience for what worked and what still needed to be improved.

“The campus is working really hard to be be better prepared for emergencies,” Assefa said. “Having this space is a huge step forward.”

Staff writer Jean Lee contributed to this report.

Contact Kathleen Tierney at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @kathleentierney.