I remember the first time I had ever heard about the Victoria Emergency Operations Center. It was the day after Hurricane Harvey destroyed the Gulf Coast. In a hustle to get an " all clear" from city officials to leave my house to report on the damage via Facebook Live, I spoke to a friend who works for Victoria County and she mentioned that county officials had spent the night in the" basement" at the Victoria Emergency Operations Center.

" Wait, what do you mean 'basement', VEOC, and why did they spend the night there? I inquired. "They were monitoring the storm and keeping communication open for Victorians." She replied.

I was more than intrigued. Over the course of the last few weeks, I've had the pleasure of working with media alongside city and county officials inside the " basement" located at 205 North Bridge. Simply put, the basement, known officially as Victoria Emergency Management's, 'Victoria Emergency Operation's Center', is the heart of communication for our community.

Rick McBrayer, Emergency Management Coordinator says it best. " It's a highly efficient and functioning warm ready emergency operation center, standing ready to be activated for a multitude of events and incidents at a moments notice," Rick offers. The VEOC houses state of the art technology which allows continued coordination efforts through Victoria's first responder communities by hosting efforts to keep Victoria County informed about major events on a wide spectrum, anything from severe weather and chemical hazards to our city's biggest event, Bootfest, and most recently, keeping the community educated and informed through the COVID-19 pandemic."

Although the last official VEOC meeting concerning the COVID-19 pandemic wrapped last week, Victorians can rest assured the communication staff for Victoria and Victoria County is still hard at work behind the scenes and preparing for the next time the VEOC will be activated. Rick offers, " Our job is to put all of the "what-if's inside a hat and do our best to prepare our responses we can ready and efficient. Being prepared is a continual effort and coordination through our first responder communities through preparedness activities like continued education drill and exercises enable us to provide expert professional response to activities."

The VEOC is ready Victoria!

As Victoria media from Townsquare Media, KAVU, The Victoria Advocate began to meet daily with the VEOC communication team alongside city and county officials for the first COVID-19 live broadcast weeks ago, we were quiet and somber coming together with so many unknown variables and hundreds of questions. Within days security was tightened as we were given daily health checks to enter the media room, hand sanitizer at every door, and facial masks with strict instructions for social distancing during our tapings.

Yet, as time went on new friendships were formed while we all came together for the benefit of the community, and with each passing day smiles and laughs became more prevalent than furrowed brows and fears. And for that, we all blessed. Hopefully COVID-19 has reached its peak in the Crossroads.

It was a little sad saying goodbye to everyone last week but it was an honor to be welcomed into the basement and behind the scenes of the Victoria Emergency Management's - Victoria Emergency Operations Center.

Until we meet again.

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Pictured; Morgan Theophil, Karen Orser, Ingra Lee, Rolando Ramirez, Giani Cantu, Shane Blucher, Alexandra Kent, Goerge Partida. Not pictured; Jon Wilcox and Tania Tchalikran

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