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Emergency operation centers (EOCs) prepare for unexpected, high-risk events or situations that may occur due to natural disasters, such as ice storms or tornadoes; disease outbreaks, like H1N1; or for large community events, such as a visit from the President. These centers serve as gathering places for cross-functional teams that help mitigate and manage disasters through collaboration, communication and action.

The number of EOC teams physically meeting to tackle disasters is decreasing as the trend towards virtual incident management continues to rise. The University of Oregon, for instance, reports only using its physical EOC twice a year as opposed to its virtual counterpart that is used six times as much. For more information on virtual EOCs and their benefits, keep reading.

The benefits of a virtual EOC

Incident management requires swift action, which can be easily achieved through virtual EOCs. Here are some other advantages of virtual EOCs:

  • Increased collaboration and information sharing: Major disasters and high-risk events require the efforts of multiple agencies. It is important that these agencies are able to put their heads together to problem-solve quickly. Virtual EOCs allow for information to be shared instantly with all members of the team, which promotes quick action and assignment of duties.
  • Better access: In a disaster situation, weather can compromise transportation or even the physical EOC itself, making access to traditional EOCs impossible. A virtual EOC allows emergency personnel to respond via mobile devices or radio in lieu of physically being present. Plus, personnel can be out on the field, allowing for real-time transmission of data and action. Phone cases, jotters or even supply-containing duffel bags imprinted with important phone numbers or log-in details are great for emergency personnel to have on the go.
  • Resource efficiency: Virtual EOCs are resource-efficient. No longer necessary are the costs associated with maintaining a brick-and-mortar EOC. Going virtual allows for the establishment of EOCs when and where you need them. Plus, virtual EOCs put resources at everyone’s fingertips. Gone are the days of stacks of binders, policy books and contact lists because everything is available online. Print database-access instructions on iPad® cases or mouse pads so personnel can easily find helpful information anywhere they need it.
  • Staffing efficiency: As government agencies are continually challenged to do more with less, efficiency becomes essential. Staffing physical EOCs is not always the best use of resources. It limits the number of management personnel that may be needed elsewhere to brief crews on the field and delegate roles and responsibilities. Going virtual leaves more staff and resources available when and where they’re needed most.

Remember, the purpose of an EOC is to enable quick response and mitigation of disasters or high-risk events. The ability to pull a team together anytime, anywhere to communicate and collaborate can help your agency act swiftly and effectively should the unexpected occur.


Shouldis, William. “The Emergency Operations Center: A Vital Preparedness Tool.” Fire Engineering. N.p., 01 May 2010. Web. Retrieved 18 July 2014.

Roscorla, Tanya. “5 Reasons Why Emergency Operations Are Going Virtual.” Government Technology. N.p., 29 Apr. 2014. Web. Retrieved 18 July 2014.

“Virtual Emergency Operation Centers (VEOCs).” Davis Logic. N.p., n.d. Web. Retrieved 21 July 2014.

Lucas-McEwan, Valerie. “Cloud Computing and Emergency Management: The Virtual EOC.” Emergency Management. N.p., 24 May 2012. Web. Retreived 21 July 2014.




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