(May 22, 2020) Behind the scenes, the Ocean City Emergency Operations Center (EOC) has been working to make sure all departments are up to speed and ready to handle pre-, mid- and post-coronavirus affairs.
“The Emergency Operations Center is something we stand up on during times of emergency and crises of a large scale,” Emergency Services Director Joe Theobald said. “What we do is we bring in employees from various departments from the city who have a specialty, and we operate the coordination, and sometimes the control of the incident, from that single room with all of the decision makers … to have a unified approach to mitigate whatever the problem may be.”
Over the years, the center has evolved into an almost formal city function, but on a per-need basis, Theobald said.
Tasks are divided into branches: operations headed by fire and police department representatives, logistics by the public works department, finances headed by the city’s finance department and so on and so forth.
“It’s a continuous cycle to address whatever the needs are, with the right people in the right place,” Theobald said.
Typically, the emergency operations center is put into use during natural disasters, such as hurricanes or floods.
This year, however, Theobald said his every waking hour has been dedicated to coronavirus-related operations and tasks.
“We knew early on when things were changing we had to get our hands on whatever the virus might do to Ocean City — we wanted to get ahead of it,” Theobald said.
Theobald said the emergency center has been working continuously since March 6 to recommend and implement various safety protocols and tools.
For instance, one early task was to ensure that all public safety and law enforcement officials had proper personal protective equipment (PPE).
Now that the state has entered phase one of Gov. Larry Hogan’s recovery plan, which lifted the stay-at-home order and reopened some businesses, Theobald said the priority would be to ensure public spaces were kept clean and disinfected, and to keep pushing for people to practice physical distancing.
“We want to make sure that we have a common message that goes out to the public, as well as the business sector and the rest of government itself,” Theobald. “We want to make sure everyone is aware of what’s going on, and we constantly give the right information.”