NOAA Opens Gulf Disaster Response Center

The Oct. 15 ribbon cutting officially opened a 15,200-square-foot facility in Mobile, Ala., that includes a training room, conference rooms, and a multi-function space that can be used for emergency response operations and drills.

Leaders of NOAA, members of Congress, and federal, state, and local emergency responders attended the Oct. 15 grand opening and ribbon cutting for the new Gulf of Mexico Disaster Response Center in Mobile, Ala. The 15,200-square-foot, $11 million NOAA facility will serve as a central coordination point for federal, state, and local emergency managers and partners for any emergency event in that region, including hurricanes.

NOAA's services include forecasting the paths of hurricanes and assistance in restoring the environment after oil spills, said David Kennedy, assistant NOAA administrator for coastal and ocean services. "I know this facility will greatly enhance our ability to coordinate regionally while improving the accessibility of NOAA resources to emergency managers. We are grateful for the support Senator [Richard] Shelby and others have provided to make it a reality."

"The Gulf of Mexico Disaster Response Center will be critical to Alabama and other states in the region as they prepare for and respond to disasters, natural and otherwise, that affect the Gulf of Mexico and those that thrive off of its resources," said U.S. Sen. Shelby, R-Ala. "By assisting susceptible communities like Mobile in their emergency preparedness, this facility will help to prevent unnecessary tragedies in future crises."

Oil and chemical spill response personnel will work out of the center along with personnel involved in meteorology, damage assessment, habitat conservation and restoration planning, marine debris, nautical charting, and navigation safety, according to NOAA's news release. "The ultimate goal is to be a centralized hub in the Gulf of Mexico region and make our responses to emergencies more efficient," said Charlie Henry, the center's director. "The data NOAA will provide from this center will inform daily weather reports, help to ensure national security, help us determine if seafood is safe, and guide cargo ships loaded with goods we all buy at the store. Bringing these closely linked talents and resources under one roof will help streamline delivery of NOAA services for regional emergency preparedness and response."

The building was designed and constructed to withstand a Category 5 hurricane and includes an interior F5 tornado shelter. It is built to the Silver Certification standards of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) from the U.S. Green Building Council. In addition to office space, it includes a training room, conference rooms, and a large multi-function space that can be used for emergency response operations and drills.

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