Pasadena debuts new emergency center

HOUSTON Inside the new Pasadena Police Department building is now the nerve center of emergency operations which will be activated before the next major hurricane or significant public threat.

Authorities hope the room isn't used much at all, but they say if it must be, they're now ready.

When Hurricane Ike blew ashore, the emergency operations center in Pasadena was set up in the old police department. Not only did power go out, but two generators failed, and in the middle of the storm everyone inside had to run across a green space to set up all over again at city hall.

"It was orderly chaos," Robert Hemminger, Pasadena Emergency Management Coordinator, said. "It was pretty chaotic."

Whenever the next storm or disaster strikes, the incident will be handled in the new $750,000, 1400 square foot, state-of-the-art emergency operations center.

"Obviously when disaster strikes time is of the essence," Hemminger said. "Having our personnel able to come in here, sit down, log in and be up and operational just enables them to be able to respond to the situation that much quicker."

All vital departments, including police, fire and public works, have pre-assigned desks in a "mission control" style set up, with up to 12 screens from which they can glean key information. And, with all of this now under the same roof, authorities say they will be able to respond more quickly and with a greater understanding of the situation at hand.

Pasadena Police Chief Mike Thaler says this centralized, much more organized operation will likely save critical minutes, possibly even hours, the next time disaster strikes.

"Time is precious when we're talking about evacuating people and getting them to safety," Thaler said.

That's something that must be comforting, authorities hope, for the 155,000 residents of Pasadena.

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