Mayor Muriel Bowser, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the DC Homeland Security Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA), and District officials celebrated the opening of the DC Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in Navy Yard. The new EOC has more space for responding to large-scale emergencies and will also serve as the swing space for HSEMA while their headquarters in Ward 8 are renovated.
“Whether we’re responding to a planned special event or an unplanned emergency, coordination is key,” said Mayor Bowser. “We know DC is unique – we operate as a city, county, and state, we’re the nation’s capital, we share a border with two states, and we host and support First Amendment activities every day. We are proud of those responsibilities, and the new Emergency Operations Center provides more space for the in-person coordination that is required to protect DC.”
The new facility is 42,000 square feet and was envisioned by three guiding principles: functionality, flexibility, and wellness. The space contains a Situation Room with 130 seats for handling emergency operations and an adjoining room with 40 seats for the Joint Information Center (JIC). The JIC allows agencies throughout the District to come together during an activation of an emergency or planned special event to coordinate and adjudicate situations as they happen. The Situation Room offers 54 more seats than the current facility and also includes whiteboard dividing walls, wellness areas, an IT service station, planning section, an amateur radio room, breakout rooms, and lockers.
“We take our mission to protect our residents and community very seriously,” said the Director of HSEMA Chris Rodriguez. “The new Emergency Operations Center is the next evolution of this mission. The new facility offers dedicated spaces for our partners and programs like Protect DC, and significantly increases our ability to make informed, thoughtful decisions to protect our residents and visitors.”
The DC Emergency Operations Center also includes a Federal Coordination Center, which will offer a permanent space for federal partners to convene for meetings; a Mayoral suite and briefing room for press conferences and briefings; and a new space for the Fusion Center, which houses the District and Regional Watch Centers and the recently-launched Protect DC initiative.
Protect DC is a prevention program that utilizes a multidisciplinary model of bringing together partners from behavioral health, human services, law enforcement, and other disciplines to assess an individual’s risk of violence or serious harm, share information, and coordinate resources and services. The program engages these community partners through trainings, in-person events, and digital outreach to educate and empower them to identify and refer concerning behavior or communication that could indicate an individual is on the pathway to violence. Since the launch of Protect DC in October 2022, the program has received 47 referrals and trained more than 300 community partners on how to identify risk factors and warning signs of potential violence. Interagency coordination has been critical to the early success of the Protect DC program.
In 2022, HSEMA was awarded $637,500 in grant funding from DHS to develop and enhance the District’s threat assessment and management capabilities and to establish Protect DC. This funding is part of DHS’ Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention Grant Program which provides communities with funding and support to create innovative solutions for preventing targeted violence and terrorism. In total, the District has received more than $1 million from DHS through this program.
“More than 23,000 employees representing every office and agency of the Department of Homeland Security work here in Washington, DC, making it home to the largest concentration of our Department’s personnel and resources across the United States,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “DC’s emergency managers, law enforcement officers, and intelligence professionals work alongside members of DHS every day to ensure the safety and security of the District. That close partnership and coordination between DHS and the District of Columbia will strengthen and deepen here at this new facility. This new Emergency Operations Center was built in part with over $4 million in funding from DHS preparedness grant funds and is a shining example of how federal and local partners can work together.”
The entire HSEMA staff of about 130 people will begin transitioning to the new facility and be fully moved in by October 1. The old HSEMA facility at 2720 MLK Avenue SE will undergo renovations that are expected to be completed in October 2025. At that time, the administrative staff will return to the HSEMA headquarters, and the operations staff will continue to work out of the DC Emergency Operations Center.