PROVIDENCE – The Providence Emergency Management Agency broke ground on a $2.1 million expansion of its operations center on Wednesday.
The federally funded project will add 9,236 square feet to the center to create a regional training facility and a new garage at PEMA’s 291 Charles St. headquarters.
Providence was the lead applicant for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant in partnership with East Providence, Pawtucket, Central Falls, Warwick, West Warwick, North Providence, Cranston and Johnston.
“Providence was the first city in the nation to receive national accreditation of its emergency management agency, and this expansion of PEMA’s facility further establishes PEMA as one of the best municipal emergency response units in the nation,” Providence Mayor Angel Taveras said in prepared remarks.
“The construction of PEMA’s expanded facility will help create jobs in our city, and will ensure that Greater Providence is well prepared to meet the challenge of any emergency,” added Taveras.
Joining Taveras at the groundbreaking were U.S. Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, Lt. Gov. Elizabeth H. Roberts and PEMA Director Peter Gaynor, as well as other local and state officials.
“This project will help strengthen emergency preparedness and make communities in the Providence metro area safer,” said Reed, a Democrat and a member of the Appropriations Committee.
The federal funding was awarded after a Federal Emergency Management Technical Assistance review in 2006, which was followed by an on-site analysis in 2007. Several shortfalls were identified within the headquarters, including inadequate space for administrative and emergency operations, according to a release from Taveras’ office.
The expansion will “allow PEMA to attain an efficient and effective [emergency operations center] capable of coordinating regional emergency response, communications and rapid public warning,” according to the release.
“The completion of this fully integrated and modern emergency operations center will have an exceptional benefit not only to the city of Providence but to the entire region,” Gaynor said in a statement. “The Providence EOC facility will be available in the event of a large disaster in their communities. With a state-of-the-art operational EOC, the entire Greater Providence area will have a facility capable of providing assistance and interoperability to the entire metropolitan region.”
The updated facility will offer enough space to ensure there is a round-the-clock presence at the PEMA headquarters.
PEMA is the lead agency responsible for managing both the Greater Providence Metropolitan Medical Response System and the Providence Urban Area Security Initiative.