In the event of an emergency or disaster, Tooele County intends to be ready to relay warnings and instructions to the public.
A $750,000 renovation recently was completed at the Tooele Community Joint Information Center (JIC,) transforming the more than 100-year-old building at 27 S. Main into a state-of-the-art facility where emergency information will be gathered, verified and passed on to the public through the media.
"It's an all-hazards emergency information facility," said Wade Mathews, public information officer for Tooele County Emergency Management. "We can activate it for any type of emergency we need to."
The "joint" part of the center reflects the collaboration between Tooele County, Deseret Chemical Depot, Tooele Army Depot, Dugway Proving Ground and the state Division of Homeland Security. It's the only permanently dedicated jointly operated facility in the state, Mathews said.
Tooele has had a JIC for the past 15 years, originally because it was a requirement of the federal emergency-preparedness program for the stockpile of chemical-warfare agents in the area, he said.
"Now, the risk from the chemical stockpile is greatly reduced because all of the chemical nerve agents are destroyed," Mathews said. "They only have mustard agent left."
Tooele County, though, faces other risks that make the JIC an asset to the community, he said.
"We have hazardous materials being transported through our county every day on the railways and the highways," he said. "But the biggest risk to Tooele County for widespread disaster and damage is earthquakes."
The former JIC at the Tooele Army Depot most recently was utilized on Sept. 5, 2002, when a terrorist alert went out after an intruder was spotted at Deseret Chemical Depot, where chemical agents were stored.
"We had all this media interest because it was almost a year after 9/11," Mathews said, "and everyone was wondering if this was another terrorist incident. Of course, it wasn't."
Still, it's the type of emergency that makes having a JIC in the county beneficial, he said.
"We're not anticipating any emergency," Mathews said. "We've had a JIC here for 15 years. It was time to move it to a different location."
At 3,600 square feet, the new JIC is a little smaller than the Tooele Army Depot location, but Mathews said the space is used more efficiently and the facility is more media-friendly.
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