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Taney County Firefighters Streamlining Disaster Efforts

TANEY COUNTY, Mo.--Firefighters in Taney County are working to streamline the recovery process following natural disasters. The "EOC (Emergency Operations Center) in a Box" is designed to immediately get emergency crews on the same page when every second counts.
TANEY COUNTY, Mo.--Firefighters from Taney County are working to streamline the recovery process following natural disasters. The "EOC (Emergency Operations Center) in a Box" is designed to to immediately get emergency crews on the same page when every second counts.

"Several instances back to back... it allowed us to see that we could be more streamlined," says Branson Fire Chief Ted Martin, referring to the EF2 Tornado that hit Branson in 2012, and the floods that left dozens homeless just a few years prior.

Martin says during disaster events, crews from surrounding areas are often called in to assist in the recovery effort, "(The EOC) allows folks from say Branson to walk into Taney County, Green County or Christian County and have the same assets."

The EOC in a box is actually 5 separate plastic totes, housing everything needed to set up a "disaster headquarters" in a small building or outside in a rural area. Items inside the boxes include: office supplies, color-coded lanyards for different emergency crews, extension cords, power strips, batteries, flashlights, maps of the area, and make shift tents.

"We start (the EOC) paper based, like when the tornado happened in Branson, lot of power outage issues, infrastructure into our city servers were an issue," says Martin, referring to why computers are not included in the kits. Martin says the kits also has the forms needed to document expenses, that can possibly be used to get FEMA funding later on.

"It’s always difficult in the early part of a disaster, "says Western Taney County Fire Chief Chris Berndt, "many times you get the resource, but it's not the right resource, and so they kind of make due, but its not as efficient and it can make it more expensive in the long run."

Berndt says in the hectic hours following a disaster communication is key, which is why his department will also have 1 of the 6 EOC boxes currently in Taney County.

The Western Taney County Fire Chief says the $1500 cost will be driven down as more stations hop on board with the project, "we want to make it at least county wide, we want all the jurisdictions on the same page."

Berndt says the EOC box can also be "built upon" as state and federal crews join the recovery effort, allowing everyone to use the same terminology.

Of the 6 constructed boxes: 2 are housed in western Taney County, 2 are located in Branson, 1 at the Branson Airport and 1 in Forsyth.
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