Kentucky Opens New Emergency Operations Center

Oct 21, 2013

The 2009 Ice Storm that hit parts of Kentucky provided the impetus to open a new emergency operations center in Frankfort.

Credit photo provided

The storm that downed trees across Kentucky knocked out power to some 700,000 residents and left roads impassable was the impetus for a new command center for the state's emergency management agency.

That $11.8 million Emergency Operations Center officially opened Monday at the Kentucky National Guard headquarters in Frankfort.

"This is more than a building; it's the lifeline to all of Kentucky's 120 counties in times of trouble," Gov. Steve Beshear said at a public unveiling of the facility Monday morning.

The center was built to stand up to major weather catastrophes, including tornadoes with winds of up to 250 mph.

Kentucky has dealt with a series of natural disasters in recent years, including tornadoes, floods, droughts and the deadly ice storm that Beshear said at the time was the most widespread natural disaster to ever hit the state.

National Guard troops used chain saws to cut their way into remote communities to reach residents stranded by the winter storm that paralyzed communities from the Ozarks through Appalachia. Officials blamed or suspected the storm in more than 40 deaths, most from hypothermia, traffic accidents or carbon monoxide poisoning.

During that storm, Kentucky personnel worked in the cramped quarters of the state's old command center, built in 1973, to direct emergency responders to the hardest hit areas, where Guardsmen handed out meals to people cooped up in powerless homes.

"It was apparent that we needed a new center," said Capt. Stephen Martin, spokesman for the Kentucky National Guard.

The new digs are far more spacious, and are filled with the latest technology.

Nearly $10 million of the funding for the 26,150-square-foot center came from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The remainder was covered by the Kentucky Department of Military Affairs and the Office of Homeland Security.

"This facility is a huge step toward bringing Kentucky's emergency operations where it needs to be in the 21st century," Beshear said.