Emergency command center opens - Tucson News Now

Emergency command center opens

For the first time this year, the Pima County Sheriff's Office has opened an emergency command center in anticipation of further rain related events.

According to PCSO, the monsoon storms have been one and done, in and out in a short period of time.

But this storm appears to be different with the capability of hanging around a couple of days.

And that's a problem following a night of 14 swift water rescues and the anticipation of a repeat performance tonight.

The command center is located on the third floor of the sheriff's office at 1750 W. Benson Highway.

The center is buzzing with activity and people.

They're from Avra Valley, Drexel Heights, Picture Rocks, search and rescue, all of whom had emergency situations last night.

The conference room's walls are lined with monitors tuned to Doppler radar, national weather service, weather channel and local news.

Putting all the agencies under one roof and command means time savings which can be critical.

"I can reach across the room and talk to each of the fire districts that are involved," says Captain Byron Gwaltney, the operations commander. "We can unify our response before the call is dispatched."

In an emergency, that can save time which could save a life.

At the center of it all is a large monitor containing all the calls the department is working.

"That's critical to us," says Captain Frank Duarte. "We can make priority decisions on which calls to go to and which calls can wait."

He says limited resources make it necessary to prioritize.

When there are multiple rescues going on like last night it's used to determine "which rescues to go to and which ones may not be quite as bad."

The people in the room have all trained together before and are familiar with each other and the jobs they do.

If the rains come, each has a task which must be performed quickly and with precision.

If it doesn't rain, "then we have a great opportunity for all emergency services to work together."

In other words, a good training session for the time when those skills are needed.

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