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Backup state emergency operations center dedicated in Mesa

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MESA – When the Wallow Fire burned through eastern Arizona last summer, the Arizona Division of Emergency Management oversaw the state’s response from the State Emergency Operations Center in Phoenix.

But what would happen if some mishap or disaster knocked that center out of operation?

Officials would move to a new backup center dedicated Wednesday at Arizona State University’s Polytechnic campus.

Until the state needs it for an emergency or for practice, ASU students studying for an applied science degree in emergency management will use the facility.

The agency and ASU created a backup site here in 2004, but the original one was demolished to make way for a campus expansion. The new facility, established a few blocks away, is compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act and features 47 telephones and several brand-new televisions that can show maps and lists and well as the latest news.

“It fills our needs very much,” said Greg Roybal, public information officer for the Arizona Division of Emergency Management. “All the people who would be in an emergency operations center have a place at these tables, from the public information officers to logistics to the folks in plans – all these separate arms that come together in an emergency.”

A facility in Prescott once backed up the division’s headquarters at North 52nd Street and East McDowell Road in Phoenix, but it shut down in 2000 because the city needed the space.

Lou Trammell, the division’s director, said ASU will use the alternate site more than ADEM. But he said officials will be conducting exercises this summer to familiarize agencies that would be present during a crisis with the new accommodations.

“The scenario’s going to drive us from that facility and we’re going to relocate out here,” Trammell said. “We’re going to get people familiar with the structure and location so we can operate and coordinate a response to an emergency from this facility.”

Danny Peterson, a professor of practice in ASU’s Department of Applied Science and Mathematics, said the collaboration with ADEM began with a vision of simulating for students the procedures of a real emergency center.

“The best way to get that off center, so to speak, was to create a real-world emergency operations center and convert it to a dual-use facility,” he said.