Jan. 20—Firefighters, police officers and emergency services personnel joined members of the community Thursday to commemorate the groundbreaking ceremony for the new City of Norman Emergency Communications and Operations Center (ECOC).
The purpose of the new facility will be to provide the unification of necessary resources to safely and effectively respond to emergency operations to critical incidents, officials said.
Currently, the dispatch office is located in the basement of the Norman Police Department.
Linda Price, who represents the Public Safety Sales Tax Oversight committee, expressed her gratitude for those who have made the project possible, and said that for the safety of the community, it was important to move the dispatch team to an adequate space.
“For those of you that don’t know, they’ve been in a little tiny space in the basement of the police department all of these years, no windows, no access to anything,” Price said.
You have to climb a bunch of stairs to get out. They really support everyone in this community. When you are scared or need help, you talk to them. They are on the front line.”
Fire Chief Travis King said it is important to build the dispatch team a new home for safety reasons, particularly during storm season.
“For the first time, we are going to be working in a ‘hardened’ facility,” he said. Countless times through the years … we’ve been in standby watching the storms come in and sometimes tornadoes come right at us, and a decision has to be made. Are we going to jump in a firetruck? Or are we going to ride this out?
King said the computers and infrastructure that operate the city’s tornado sirens are currently not housed in a ‘hardened’ facility, which means that should the current building get struck by natural disaster, the city’s safety could be compromised.
Housed in the new 20,000 square-foot facility will be a 911 center, emergency operations center, incident command resources, space for a future traffic management center, and associated technology and support systems.
City Council member Stephen Holman, who represents Ward 7, said voters first approved the ECOC project as a part of the April 2014 Public Safety Sales Tax election.
Construction, however was delayed because the project required further resources. In 2020, a second vote failed, so in 2021, the City Council allocated money received from the American Rescue Plan Act.
“ARPA money became available that could be used for this type of purpose, and the council decided to allocate a large sum of that for this project because it is such an important piece of our emergency response apparatus,” Holman said.
“For me, getting our dispatchers out of the basement of the police department may be the number one thing that I am excited about having this project done.”
He also said that building the ECOC is important to sustain the longevity of dispatch in Norman.
“It is hard to recruit people for a job like that. I hope this will help us to attract people for that job and retain the good people that we already have,” he said.
The facility at 2801 E. Robinson St. will be constructed at a cost of approximately $13.5 million and is expected to open in the summer of 2024.
Architects Design Group of Winter Park, Florida, served as the primary architecture and engineering firm; Boynton Williams & Associates of Norman is the local architecture firm; ADG|Blatt Architects of Oklahoma City is the program management team; and Crossland Construction is the construction manager.
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