In a standing-room-only meeting, the Mountain Emergency Services Committee (MEMSCOMM) considered alternate Emergency Operations Centers (EOC)’s for the Hill. Idyllwild Fire Protection District (IFPD) Chief Norm Walker has advocated designating an alternate center given the fire department could be badly damaged in a major earthquake. The EOC serves as the locus for emergency responders if a disaster were to occur on the Hill.

Attendees, including a significant number of professional responders from Riverside County Parks, CAL FIRE, Caltrans, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, the Forest Service and local volunteer groups, applied a list of specific needs that each proposed site should have to best serve as an EOC.

Those attributes include backup power, accessible and adequate parking, meeting space, communication lines, cell coverage, kitchen, bathrooms, heat, water and building construction likely to meet current earthquake building standards. The purpose of the Hill EOC is to house an operations center to direct disaster response and recovery, or as Office of Emergency Services (OES) Deputy Director Peter Lent put it, “a place to make decisions and write checks [for whatever is needed to respond appropriately]” and the location where first responder agencies show up.

Four sites out of nine considered had most of what was needed: the Mountain Resource Center on Franklin, the Pine Cove Water District office, the Forest Service’s Keenwild Ranger Station and the County Park’s facility at Hurkey Creek.

“We’ll need a fact sheet on each facility, a map and will need to apply the criteria,” offered Walker. OES will investigate each site prior to the February meeting and apply the above-mentioned criteria before making a final determination. Lent advised that the center would likely be designated an “area command center” since, in any major emergency, there is only one EOC and that is in Riverside, unless it is inoperable.

In other business, Anthony Richardson of OES spoke about the Citizen Disaster Corps inaugurated by former Governor Schwarzenegger and that nominations for local CERT and/or cross-trained volunteers from Hill communities are being sought to fill a 200-member Riverside County contingent. Contact IFPD Chief Walker at (951) 659-2153 or Richardson at (951) 955-4700 if interested in serving. Serving would require being sworn in and attending six required trainings. Lent estimated that eight volunteers would be needed from mountain communities.

The next MEMSCOMM meeting is at 9 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 9 at the IFPD meeting room.