City, NU to share emergency operations center

A joint training exercise at the NU center last March.

City of Evanston and Northwestern University officials today announced plans to share the use of the school's emergency operations center. in an effort to improve public safety and emergency response.

Officials say the center, located in the NU police headquarters at 1201 Davis St., will provide a safe and secure location during an emergency or disaster where city and university crisis management teams can collaborate to make effective, informed decisions in coordination with local, county, state and federal agencies.

The city and school have signed a memorandum of understanding on a one-year agreement for the shared use of the facility, beginning Sept. 1, and including an option to be renewed annually.

Evanston Fire Chief Brian Scott says the city's existing center, in its service center building on Asbury Avenue, had been put into service in 2001 after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

"It was going to need significant upgrading, especially of its information technology components, to meet current needs," Scott told Evanston Now.

He said avoiding those upgrade costs will probably save the city in excess of $100,000.

“This important agreement will enhance public safety for all who live, work or study in Evanston,” Mayor Stephen Hagerty said in a statement. “In my 25 years as an emergency management consultant, I can tell you, without question, those who collaborate together succeed together. The city and Northwestern will continue to look for these opportunities.”

“Northwestern University highly values our relationship with the City of Evanston, and nothing is more important to both of us than the safety of our two communities. We are proud to partner with city emergency officials to increase collaboration in every way that can help make both our communities more secure,” said Northwestern President Morton Schapiro.

In March, the city and NU used the emergency operations center during a joint training exercise, which simulated a hazardous materials spill in the area. This new agreement will facilitate continued coordination between the city and school as the organizations focus on emergency preparedness and response training.

“Disaster and emergency incident mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery are responsibilities shared by all public safety personnel, regardless of their agency or jurisdiction,” Scott said. “Sharing this outstanding facility will maximize public safety by ensuring the effective collaboration of all stakeholders."

Scott says that in addition to a large conference room with a wall of computer monitors that can show video feeds from around the city as well as weather data and information from the Cook County emergency management center, the facility has smaller conference rooms for breakout meetings and press briefings as well as locker room, snower and kitchen facilities.

In an emergency you'd have poeple rotating through the facility for long periods of time. Supporting and sustaining those operations is critical to managing the team, Scott added.

"The Emergency Operations Center is a state of the art facility with IT infrastructure that has been adapted to meet the City’s needs," said Northwestern University Police Chief Bruce Lewis. "We have learned from experience how vitally important it is to collaborate on emergency response in managing either a man-made or a natural disaster, as either will most definitely impact both the City and the University."

“This agreement is another example of the wonderful partnership of the City of Evanston and Northwestern University crisis management teams. I look forward to our continued progress on projects that make our community safer,” said Evanston Police Chief Richard Eddington.

“Northwestern’s Crisis Management Team members help the University community prepare for potential or actual threats, emergency incidents and disaster situations. Working closely with our counterparts from Evanston in a crisis affecting both our communities is crucial for the safety of both. This new step establishing a joint EOC at Northwestern will help ensure that happens,” said Greg Klaiber, director of emergency management at Northwestern.

This story was updated with additional information from Chief Scott at 3:21 p.m.

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