County constructing dedicated emergency operations center for Florida Keys

MARATHON, Fla. – Despite being in the path of many storms, the Florida Keys hasn’t had a dedicated emergency operations center to coordinate for a hurricane — but that’s changing.

Monroe County is constructing a dedicated EOC in Marathon that will also house other critical county operations.

“We’re going to have 200-plus people here weathering a storm,” said Cary Knight, Director of Project Management for Monroe County.

The facility will house the EOC, the 911 call center, and the county’s fire administration.

Designed for winds up to 220 mph, the concrete has been mixed with special waterproofing, according to the contractor.

“This is a pre-cast building system,” said Marshall Quarles with Ajax Building. “Basically, we have foundations with continuous footings all the way around.”

The main floor is approximately 22 feet up to clear any potential flooding.

Knight told Local 10 there was a grant in 2008 to design a new and dedicated EOC, but there was no money to build it. Then, in 2017, Hurricane Irma hit the Keys.

The EOC housed inside the county government center had to be evacuated.

“Everybody had to leave the EOC and go to Ocean Reef. So there was actually no one here weathering the storm,” Knight said.

Soon afterwards, state and federal dollars were allocated to fund construction. The approximate cost is $32 million and, so far, of no cost to Monroe County taxpayers.

Officials said the facility can be operational for 72 hours completely off the grid.

“We want to get people back to their lives, back to their homes. We want to get people help immediately,” Knight said.

The new EOC is expected to open next spring.

About the Author:

Janine Stanwood joined Local 10 News in February 2004 as an assignment editor. She is now a general assignment reporter. Before moving to South Florida from her Washington home, Janine was the senior legislative correspondent for a United States senator on Capitol Hill.