On April 1, Bethel partially activated its Emergency Operations Center to “prevent and minimize illness and death caused by the coronavirus.” Currently located in City Hall, the EOC is documenting the crisis response, developing an inventory of hotel capacity for possible use as shelters, and educating city staff on their roles in the incident command system.
Acting City Manager, and now Incident Commander, Bill Howell, says that if the Emergency Operations Center moves into full activation, the fire chief, police chief, finance director, and other key department heads will leave their normal posts. They’ll physically work together in the EOC to coordinate the city’s COVID-19 response.
“So that’s what you’re seeing when you see an emergency ops center stand up, is that focus is shifting away from normal operations into an emergency response posture,” Howell said.
Howell says that the situation in Bethel does not warrant full activation yet. At partial activation of the EOC, he says that department heads must still juggle their normal duties and coronavirus response, which has led to some delays in normal city business.
“Our budget is due today, and because we’ve been working on COVID-19 we’re going to postpone that for a few weeks,” Howell said.
Howell says that the EOC will also allow the city to request backup emergency personnel, personal protective equipment, and information from the state of Alaska. Although currently leading the city as incident commander, Howell will hand that position over to the new city manager, Vincenzo “Vinny” Corazza, on April 6.