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Posted on: November 27, 2013

City, County and Port Work Together to Establish a Unified Emergency Center

The City of Bellingham and Whatcom County are joining forces with the Port of Bellingham to establish a new unified emergency operations center near the Bellingham International Airport.

“I’m pleased that the City of Bellingham and the Port of Bellingham are working with the county and some of our major industrial neighbors – including BP and Phillips 66 -- to forge a unique public/private partnership,” said County Executive Jack Louws. “Our plan is to develop an Emergency Operations Center that can host large training exercises and to prepare the most effective and robust response to natural disasters and major events that might potentially threaten the lives and property of county residents.”

This more than 24,000-square-foot center will be housed in the Port of Bellingham’s special purpose facility at 3888 Sound Way, which served as the federal government’s emergency center for the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics. The federal government made a substantial investment in the Airport Industrial Park property for use as an emergency operations center and those improvements will be useful for the shared city and county center. The building has been vacant since the federal lease ended.

“We look forward to this county and city partnership with the Port to make use of this special facility to provide emergency services and training for the community,” said Port Commission President Jim Jorgensen.

The proposed 10-year interlocal agreement, which would begin in January 2014, is scheduled for consideration by the Port Commission (Dec. 3), the City Council (Dec. 9), and the County Council (Dec. 10).

The city and county plan to co-locate and form an emergency operations center to coordinate fire response, law enforcement response, emergency communications and emergency operations and ancillary public safety activities during disasters. The county and the city are partnering with private businesses and will allow the use of the facility by others for emergency operations, emergency training exercises and other emergency services.

Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville said the city and county work closely together to plan for and respond to emergencies and have co-located their emergency experts, but both agencies have been working with inadequate space and equipment.
“We have a strong emergency management partnership and have taken many positive steps forward,” she said. “Working together in an adequately sized, well-equipped facility will enhance our ability to effectively respond to natural disasters and other major events that threaten lives and property.”

City and county officials say within three years they may consolidate all public safety dispatch centers and the 911 call center into this emergency operations center. This potential consolidation will be researched further in 2014.

The timeline of moving these various locations in to one center is being established. First to move will be the county and city emergency operations early in 2014.

For more information contact:
Whatcom County Executive Jack Louws – 360-676-6717
Bellingham Fire Chief Roger Christensen – 360-778-8411
Port External Affairs Director Carolyn Casey – 360-676-2500

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