New emergency operations centre opening this fall

A new state-of-the-art Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) for the city is scheduled to open later this fall in the inner city neighborhood of Crescent Heights.

The centre, which is really an underground bunker located in Rotary Park overlooking the downtown skyline, is designed to protect Calgarians in the event of a major emergency or disaster.

“We can respond to and recover from a major emergency with the new facility,” said Cara Katterhagen, communications specialist for Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA).

Manasc Isaac, the architectural company that planned the centre, said on their website that the need for a new facility was identified during the floods in 2005.

The city’s old emergency centre, which was also located in Rotary Park, just east of Centre Street and north of Memorial Drive, lacked the essential technology needed to accommodate a large-scale emergency.

According to the City of Calgary’s website, the new centre will house approximately 25 staff daily and will be able to operate as a self-contained facility for the first 72 hours of an emergency.

“It’s a beautiful facility, [and] it will enable us to be better,” said Katterhagen.

The new EOC provides a one-stop-shop in terms of co-ordination, Katterhagen said.

Key personnel, business units and external agencies like ATCO, Alberta Health Services and ENMAX will assemble at the EOC and support front-line services in the event of an emergency.

According to the City of Calgary’s website, CEMA director Bruce Burrell decides when to open the centre in the event of a crisis. Burrell co-ordinates the response of up to 29 different groups that make up CEMA.

Deputy Chief of the Calgary fire department, Tom Sampson oversees daily operations of the agency.

The city’s website said the EOC will have facilities to better serve first responders and Calgarians, and will be the new multi-agency command centre in any large-scale emergency.

Construction of the $54 million EOC started in 2009, and the previous EOC stayed in operation as the new one was built.

The structure faced numerous construction challenges with soil conditions, sensitive equipment, insulation, water proofing requirements.  A sink-hole which developed on 1st Street N.E. between 5th and 6th avenues in November, 2009 also caused delays in the construction of the centre.

According to Manasc Isaac’s website, the company met with residents frequently to find out what they required to make the centre a positive addition to the community.

Crescent Heights resident Shannon McKinnon said she was pleased the city involved the community with the project.

“They were open to residents with the planning of the centre,” said McKinnon.

Manasc Isaac’s website said most of the building is placed below ground, which provides an extension to the park, increases security, and reduces the above grade building mass compared to the previous centre.

Katterhagen said it blends into the community.

“I like the look of it, it’s sharp,” said McKinnon.

Katterhagen said the centre, along with all new City of Calgary buildings, is designed to meet a minimum LEED silver certification.

According to the City of Calgary website, LEED certification is awarded to sustainable buildings that enhance the indoor and outdoor environment, reduce the impact on natural resources and provide long-term energy savings.

The EOC is set to open later this fall. However, no public opening is planned, due to the high level of security.

President of the Crescent Heights Community association, John McDermid and Manasc Isaac were unavailable for comment.

About Devon Patterson 6 Articles
As a writing and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Devon Patterson worked as a reporter for The Press during the 2012-2013 academic year.