The next time a natural disaster threatens the Lincoln area, those coordinating emergency management will be working from a new home in south Lincoln.
In the northwest corner of the Lancaster County Youth Services Center at 1200 Radcliff St., the Lincoln-Lancaster County Emergency Operations Center provides a more spacious hub better equipped to handle a crisis for days on end if need be.
The facility includes beds and showers in the event emergency management officials need to stay at the center for extended periods of time.
“It’s essentially a small dorm or a quiet room,” said Director of Emergency Management Jim Davidsaver, a former Lincoln Police Department captain. “If you just need a break, the new facility gives you that opportunity.”
The new operations center also has 28 workstations set up and ready for use whenever the facility is activated. The workstations include a phone and a port for computer setups.
Davidsaver said the county utilizes its emergency operations center 12 to 15 times a year, depending on what types of situations arise, and the new location will always be at the ready whenever activation is necessary.
The operations center was previously housed in the old police department building at 233 S. 10th St., which was retired from service last year. Davidsaver said the location was adequate, but its low ceiling and a support pillar in the center of the room caused a lack of sight between workstations, creating a cramped feeling for working officials.
“It worked, but it was difficult and sometimes felt like trying to put a round peg in a square hole,” he said.
The new space is 4,500 square feet, with 2,080 square feet reserved for emergency workstations. This provides nearly 1,000 square feet more space for public safety officials and volunteers to work when engaged in emergency operations.
“This new facility gives people a chance to stretch out and gives them an easier place to coordinate and cooperate their efforts,” Davidsaver said.
The new location was under development for a little more than two years, with work beginning in January 2017. Davidsaver said its new location at the youth detention center was previously comprised of a collection of empty cells, and had to be completely renovated and redesigned to fit its new purpose.
“There are no exterior changes, but that whole area we occupy inside is completely different,” Davidsaver said.
David Quade of Sinclair Hille Architects, a Lincoln-based architecture firm, was the architect in charge of the project. The building was designed with the same structural integrity requirements as a storm shelter, and was rated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to be able to withstand an F-5 tornado.
Lincoln-Lancaster County Emergency Management will be offering a tour of the new operations center Wednesday from 9-11 a.m. Davidsaver said the public will be allowed to check out the new facility and ask questions.
“Whether you’ve been to the old place, once you get into the new spot and look around, it’s really impressive,” Davidsaver said.