State Emergency Operations Center marks record activation amid pandemic

Gov. Tony Evers declares a public health emergency due to COVID-19 March 12 in the State...
Gov. Tony Evers declares a public health emergency due to COVID-19 March 12 in the State Emergency Operations Center. (Source: Wisconsin Emergency Management) (NBC15)
Published: Jun. 19, 2020 at 4:01 PM CDT
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This Sunday will mark the State Emergency Operations Center's 100th day of activation for the coronavirus response, the longest continuous activation for the center in Wisconsin history.

Gov. Tony Evers issued Executive Order 72 on March 12, declaring a public health emergency and ordering the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to take lead in the fight against the virus.

Several days later, the governor ordered that the

, in order to help coordinate local and state responses during the pandemic.

“This activation was different from anything we’ve had in the past,” said Lisa Gustafson, WEM’s Mission Support supervisor, in a news release. “Dozens of agency staff brought their own laptops to the SEOC, and we worked with each individual to accommodate their needs. One of the biggest challenges with the additional staff was the stress put on the wireless network.”

“The longest activation prior to this was the floods of 2008, which required 85 percent of our staff to be out in the field for almost three months working in disaster recovery centers and the joint field office in La Crosse, Wisconsin,” said Anita Cornell, a 29-year WEM employee who serves as a recovery planner in the public assistance program.