The Rich History of the State Operations Center


SOCMontage2The very first emergency operations center (EOC) in the United States can be traced back to the military before the 1900s. These centers were originally created as part of the United States civil defense, built with the purpose of continuity of governments and found mostly in basements. In the 1960’s, because of the heightened tensions of an escalating Cold War, some centers were buried underground in shock absorbing concrete boxes able to withstand a 20-megaton nuclear bomb blast three or four miles away.

Speed forward to 2014, EOC’s can be found in many nations, at all government levels, large corporations as well as in some universities. They are the central command and control facility responsible for carrying out the principles of emergency preparedness and emergency management.

The current State Operations Center (SOC) at the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services has been a model for local governments, the private sector and non-profit organizations since it was built in 2001. Now, after 14 years, the SOC has received a much-needed technological renovation to transform it into a state-of-the art facility to expedite information gathering and sharing during California’s imminent disasters.

“The intent of this modernization is to increase our capabilities with technology advancements so we are ready to support all levels of activations as well as catastrophic events 24-hours-a-day and 365 per year,” said Erika Baker, Cal OES lead project manager. “The new monitors, computer equipment and storage will help us adequately support disaster preparedness and response activities.”

Newly updated State Operations Center - February 2015
Newly updated State Operations Center – February 2015

The focal point of the SOC has expanded and is now comprised of thirty 70” monitors that form one large video wall with the ability to display up to 12 different views to enhance situational awareness. The new system allows each room in the state operations center to share information to other locations in order to share necessary data.

State Civil Defence SOC YearUnknown
State Civil Defense SOC Year Unknown

The first State Operations Center in California dates back to before the 1950s. The conference room, a small, windowless room, 42 x 21 feet, at the OES headquarters facility at 2800 Meadowview Road in Sacramento was the place where dozens of people crammed the room to help in disaster response.

The Meadowview building was located in a flood plain. In fact, during the floods of 1986, while operations directing state response to flooding were being held, National Guard trucks were standing by to evacuate staff in the event of a levee failure. And, the days shortly after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake the facility was just too small to accommodate the multitude of state agency emergency managers, VIPS and media that responded. During that time, Cal OES adapted to these overcrowding conditions by obtaining portable buildings for use as an Emergency News Center and by dispersing some operations from the SOC to other rooms in the building.

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Then, in 1997 the Legislature appropriated funds for land acquisition and design of a new headquarters building and therefore a new State Operations Center.

1998 – OES purchased a 14-acre site on the decommissioned Mather Air Force base east of downtown Sacramento where we are today.

1999 – Construction of a new headquarters facility began in early March of that year

2001 – Employees began enjoying the new headquarters building in May. The 76×50 square foot State Operations Center is built with cherry veneer from sustainable forest.

The SOC uses 20 percent less energy than required by the state’s energy efficient building codes.

“Our headquarters hasn’t had an infrastructure update since it was built,” said Dan Bout, Cal OES assistant director of response. “With increasing complexity gaps and capabilities this is a step towards maximizing capabilities. This modernization will help us rewrite information synthesis.”

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