Lesson 5: Emergency Operations Centers (EOC)

This lesson presents an overview of Emergency Operations Centers.

Objective:

At the end of this lesson, you will be able to describe basic:

  • Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Functions
  • EOC Staff Organization Models
  • EOC Activation Levels

 (National Incident Management System, Third Edition, October 2017)

Checkmark next to NIMS Introduction, checkmark next to Fundamentals and Concepts of NIMS, checkmark next to NIMS Resource Management, checkmark next to NIMS Management Characteristics, checkmark next to Incident Command System, arrow next to Emergency Operations Centers, bullet next to Other NIMS Structures and Interconnectivity, bullet next to Communications and Information Management, bullet next to Course Summary.
Emergency Operations Centers (EOC): Introduction

Emergency Operations Centers are one of four NIMS Command and Coordination structures.

ICS is used to manage on-scene, tactical-level response; EOCs are off site locations where staff from multiple agencies come together to:

  • Address imminent threats and hazards
  • Provide coordinated support to incident command, on-scene personnel and/or other EOCs

The purpose, authorities, and composition of EOCs vary widely, but EOCs generally perform the following primary functions:

  • Collecting, analyzing and sharing information
  • Supporting resource needs and requests, including allocation and tracking
  • Coordinating plans and determining current and future needs
  • In some cases providing coordination and policy direction

Some agencies and departments utilize operations centers. EOCs are multidisciplinary and in this aspect are different from operations centers employed by a single organization.

EOCs can be fixed locations, temporary facilities or virtual structures with staff participating remotely.

Graphic stating EOC Emergency Operations Centers Off Site Emergency Operations Centers Support On-scene ICS Operations.
Configuration of Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs)

EOC teams vary widely. Organization of the EOC staff can vary based on:

  • Jurisdictional/organizational authorities
  • Staffing
  • Partner and stakeholder agencies represented
  • EOC facilities
  • EOC communications capabilities
  • Political considerations
  • The mission

NIMS identifies three common ways of organizing EOC Teams:

  1. ICS or ICS-like structure
  2. Incident Support Model structure
  3. Departmental structure

Like ICS, EOCs utilize the NIMS management characteristic modular organization.

 

ICS or ICS-like EOC Structure

Many jurisdictions/organizations configure their EOCs using the standard ICS organizational structure, either exactly as it is performed in the field or with slight modifications. The structure is familiar and it aligns with the on-scene incident organization.

Org chart showing EOC Director at top, Public Information Officer under EOC Director, and Operations, Planning, Logistics, and Finance/Admin Coordination Sections at bottom.
Incident Support Model (ISM) EOC Structure

Jurisdictions/organizations that focus their EOC team's efforts on information, planning, and resource support may choose to separate the situational awareness function from planning and combine operations and logistics functions into an incident support structure.

Org Chart with EOC Director at top, then Public Information Officer, then Situational Awareness, Planning Support, Resources Support, and Center Support sections at the bottom.
Departmental EOC Structure

Jurisdictions/organizations may opt instead to use their day-to-day departmental/agency structure and relationships in their EOC.  By operating in the context of their normal relationships, department/agency representatives can function in the EOC with minimal preparation or startup time.

Organizational chart with Emergency Manager at top, and Department of Natural Resources, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Public Works, Department of Public Safety, Department of Administration, Department of Education at bottom.
EOC Activation and Deactivation

Emergency Operations Centers are activated for a variety of incidents, threats and events.

Some circumstances that might trigger center activation include:

  • Multiple jurisdictions or agencies involved in an incident.
  • The Incident Commander or Unified Command indicates an incident could expand rapidly, involve cascading effects or require additional resources.
  • A similar incident in the past led to EOC activation.
  • The EOC Director or an appointed or elected official directs EOC activation.
  • An incident is imminent such as predicted hurricane, flooding, hazardous weather, or elevated threat levels.
  • Threshold events described in an emergency operations plan occur.
  • Significant impacts to the population are anticipated.
Baton Rouge, La., September 3, 2008-FEMA employees in the EOC, group together to discuss events taking place throughout the day.
EOC Activation Levels

Emergency Operations Centers frequently have multiple activation levels to allow for:

  • Response scaled to the incident
  • Delivery of the exact resources needed
  • A level of coordination appropriate to the incident

The level of activity within a center often increases as the size, scope, and complexity of the incident grow. If the incident requires additional support and coordination, the EOC director may activate additional staff to involve more disciplines, mobilize additional resources, inform the public, address media inquiries, involve senior elected and appointed officials, and request outside assistance.

Table showing NIMS 2017 EOC Activation Levels 1. Full Activation, 2. Enhanced Steady-State/Partial Activation, and 3. Normal Operations/Steady State.
Lesson 5: Emergency Operations Centers Summary

The lesson presented an overview of NIMS Emergency Operations Centers.

The lesson specifically discussed Emergency Operations Center:

  • EOC Functions
  • EOC Staff Organization Models
  • EOC Activation Levels

The next lesson will introduce you to other NIMS Structures and Interconnectivity.

 

Checkmark next to NIMS Introduction, checkmark next to Fundamentals and Concepts of NIMS, checkmark next to NIMS Resource Management, checkmark next to NIMS Management Characteristics, checkmark next to Incident Command System, checkmark next to Emergency Operations Centers, bullet next to Other NIMS Structures and Interconnectivity, bullet next to Communications and Information Management, bullet next to Course Summary.