Myths and Facts
About Gwinnett County Public Schools’ Emergency Operations Center
Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) announced on September 11 its plan to establish an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) that would serve as an essential communications and operations focal point during an emergency or when students could be in danger. The EOC was the subject of a recent news article and editorial in a major daily newspaper that misrepresented the center’s purpose and role, which are to ensure the safety of students. The following Facts address some of the Myths circulating about the EOC.
MYTH: The EOC is being built to provide a safe, secure place for administrators during an emergency.
FACT: The Emergency Operations Center will serve as the school system’s hub for three crucial activities in the event of an emergency, such as an ice storm, tornado, or other possible crisis:
1. Gathering vital information from all school system entities and from the county’s Emergency Management Team—information that is necessary for:
2. Making the best possible decisions to ensure students are well taken care of, and
3. Speeding up communication with other emergency agencies, parents, citizens, school system staff, and the news media.
MYTH: GCPS is building a new facility for the emergency center.
FACT: The “center” is an existing conference room in a Facilities and Operations Division building. The room was chosen because it is served by an existing generator, required no renovations to make it usable as the EOC, and easily can be wired for communication with the Superintendent’s Office across the street. The conference room is located on the building’s ground floor—hardly a “bunker” as the newspaper called it.
MYTH: GCPS is spending money on the center that could be used for classrooms.
FACT: Very little money is being spent on the EOC. The room already exists. Most of the equipment needed (weather radios, police radios, computers, etc.) is part of the school system’s current inventory. New purchases will be minimal. Total cost to stock and prepare the communications and operations center is anticipated to be less than $5,000.
MYTH: Such an emergency operations center is unique.
FACT: Not true. The school system’s EOC will be much like the ones Gwinnett County, its fire and police departments, Public Health, cities, and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency
(GEMA) use in an emergency. The idea for the center originated in conversations with GEMA and county officials. They agree that the school system, charged with the safekeeping of 129,000
children and 21,000 employees, needs a command center through which to coordinate its emergency response with that of the county’s team. Says Frank Daniell, Gwinnett Emergency Management Coordinator: “We applaud the establishment of the EOC. It will be extremely valuable in assuring efficient and effective communication between the school system and the county’s emergency team. It would be advantageous for other school systems to see what Gwinnett County Public Schools has put in place.”
MYTH: The EOC is being put in place as protection in the event of terrorist attacks.
FACT: While terrorism is something no one takes lightly, the school system’s communications and operations center will most likely be used in response to acts of Mother Nature. A recent example occurred last May when severe weather swept through the county at school dismissal time. Important decisions that affected the well-being of thousands of children and staff had to be made in a matter of minutes. Had the EOC been in place, communication would have been streamlined so the process of holding our buses at schools, safeguarding students, and notifying parents would have been much more reliable and efficient.
MYTH: The Superintendent and senior staff will be sheltered in the center.
FACT: No one will be “sheltered” in the EOC. That is not its purpose. Members of the emergency team who need to be involved in decisions related to a particular emergency will gather in the center. There they will coordinate with the county’s Emergency Management Team in planning the appropriate response, advise the superintendent in making decisions, and quickly communicate those decisions to all who need to know.
Complete and reliable information, good decisions, and rapid communications are why a central Emergency Operations Center is needed for ensuring safety and security at Gwinnett’s schools in the event of an emergency.
Gwinnett County Public Schools 52 Gwinnett Drive Lawrenceville, GA 30045 770-963-8651