The Role of EOCs in Emergency Management: A Comparison of American and Canadian Experience

March 1994 (VOL. 12, NO. 1)

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The literature on emergency management is full of praise for Emergency Operations Centres (EOCs) yet it contains little of actual description of EOCs in operation. When Henry Quarantelli (1978) examined actual EOCs, he, too, found them valuable. But he also identified problems: the EOC is in the impact area forcing it to relocate when disaster strikes; access to the EOC is so badly controlled it becomes cramped and crowded, which may lead to decisions being made by a small group separately; membership changes constantly making it difficult to establish continuity in decision making; it isn’t clear, at many incidents, who is managing the EOC itself. Finally, when an EOC is established, it does not necessarily work as a unit. Quarantelli was using American research. This article uses 19 Canadian incidents to see whether disaster experience in another country would support Quarantelli. The article reports precisely the same problems. It also reports – as did Quarantelli – that EOCs are effective. Finally, it says their use in Canada is growing.