Most fans see Trojan Arena from the “topside” – a state-of-the-art indoor athletic venue complete with audio and video enhancements, cutting-edge concessions and an overall first-class fan experience.
But the lights in the arena were off this morning. The main floor dark, with only the lower hallway lit. Parking around the loading doc area was full, but no one was walking in the hallways around the lower level.
Those people were inside in the Division B emergency operations center. Various state agencies were in the “war room” camped in a horseshoe around a large screen on the wall projecting the latest forecast track of now Tropical Storm Irma as it moves through the Wiregrass.
Trojan Arena is home to the state’s hub for emergency response in the 10 southeast Alabama counties.
“I would say that most people don’t know this one way in which the University supports the state during times of emergency and disaster,” said Herbert Reeves, Dean of Student Services, who doubles as the University’s Director of Public Safety. Added to his multiple hats is now that of Pike County Emergency Management Agency interim director – a job he picked up as Hurricane Irma was threatening the Florida coastline.
Prior to its location in Trojan Arena, the Divisional EOC, one of seven in the state, was located in University Park, but Reeves said the arena can more efficiently support extended EOC operations.
Food service, rooms that can be converted into sleeping spaces, availability of showers and a large emergency generator all combine to make effective location from which emergency response can be effected.
“It’s a resource the University has that can be used to support the people in our part of the state, and while our students and fans come from far and wide, we can provide a service to the state that directly impacts the residents of the Wiregrass. It gives us an avenue to return some of their support,” he said.