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Inside Kern County's high-tech Emergency Operations Center

KCFD Captain Andrew Freeborn says the Emergency Operations Center's tools meant they were prepared for potential flooding "before a single drop of water hit the ground."
Kern County emergency operations center
Posted at 8:15 PM, Mar 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-17 23:30:50-04

Flooding over the past week has prompted several evacuation orders and warnings in places all over Kern County. Although the face of the emergency response are the workers who arrive on the scene to help, there are many people who work behind the scenes to ensure they are sending that help where people need it most.

According to Kern County Fire Department Captain Andrew Freeborn, the key is communication.

"Emergency operation centers and the abilities that you can benefit from having such a center as this in your county is tremendous. Whenever we have an event like these local storms, we are able to keep good communication between the different departments," Freeborn said.

During an emergency situation, the Emergency Operation Center is bustling with activity, with organizations from around the county, such as the Red Cross, working there.

Andrew Freeborn
Kern County Fire Captain Andrew Freeborn

The advantage the Emergency Operation Center gives to county first responders and aid agencies is in how it is able to incorporate advances in technology into the emergency response.

"So cameras were a vital aspect of what we were using to monitor the situation," said Freeborn.

On the same lot as the Emergency Operations Center is the Dispatch Center, which also works to field 911 calls and send help where needed.

KCFD Deputy Chief Zachary Wells says the technology helps first responders focus their efforts.

"We think of ourselves as intel officers and helping curate the many datastreams that are coming in, because when you look at what's available, that's a lot of noise, so we have to identify what's the right signal," said Wells.

kcfd Zachary Wells
Kern County Fire Deputy Chief Zachary Wells

Technology, such as the recently installed visualization system in the Dispatch Center, and the video wall in the Emergency Operations Center, helps aid in the county's response to emergency situations.

"So, in the most recent emergency activity that we had, we were able to have weather forecasts displayed on the screen. We are able to have forecasts related to the flow of water in the Kern River and other creeks throughout Kern County," said Freeborn.

Wells picks up the explanation.

"We have 13 monitors that we spread throughout the Dispatch Center, and then the software allows the dispatcher, with the ease of, like, an iPad being able to change the inputs and situational awareness tools that we display on any given day, with the click of a button," said Wells.

kern county emergency operations center
Kern County Emergency Operations Center

All these tools allow the county to anticipate and prepare for emergencies.

"We had resources that were pre-positioned throughout our community," said Freeborn. "We had sand piles. We had road crews that were prepared for potential for flooding before a single drop of water hit the ground."

The Kern County Office of Emergency Services also has extra rooms that are used when there is a major emergency requiring extra personnel, such as a wildfire.