ROCKVILLE – Montgomery County plans to boost its emergency preparedness by housing transportation management and emergency response centers in the same building.
The multimillion-dollar facility will also house a “war room” where dozens of representatives from county agencies can gather in a crisis, which could range from a terrorist attack to a chemical spill or major traffic disaster.
“Montgomery County will be one of the first places in the nation to link transportation and first-responders,” said Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., who announced an additional $1 million in federal funding for the project Tuesday. “So we’ll be ready for all challenges.”
Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan said the coordination that the center will provide is particularly important in the wake of Sept. 11.
“Integrating our emergency response operations will enhance the security of our citizens by improving information and response time for the county’s first responders,” Duncan said.
County Fire Administrator Gordon Aoyagi said he was “very excited” about the prospect of having 911 operators “sitting side-by-side” with traffic managers, allowing them to move traffic around a crisis or quickly get buses in to evacuate the scene.
“This would be faster, quicker and more effective,” Aoyagi said.
He said that Montgomery County would have the most advanced standing system in the nation, although Salt Lake City and Atlanta built similar facilities for the Olympics in those cities.
County officials said they have already started refurbishing a 50,000- square-foot building in Gaithersburg. County spokeswoman Esther Bowring said construction began last year with county funds.
Aoyagi said the first group to move to the new facility will be the Emergency Communications Center, the county’s permanent 911 dispatch service for police, fire and rescue crews.
Next will be the county’s Transportation Management Center, currently based in Rockville where it tracks the location of county buses and monitors traffic video from 1,000 cameras and from the air.
The war room, or Emergency Operations Center, will move in during the third phase of the project, which is scheduled to be completed toward the end of this year.
The $1 million announced Tuesday came from the federal transportation budget for fiscal 2002. The same bill contained an additional $2 million to expand and improve Intelligent Transportation System technology in the Washington region and throughout the state, Mikulski’s staff said.