Sign Up for TuscALERT

What is the EOC?


Emergency Operations Center

The EOC provides a central location from which government at any level can provide inter-agency coordination and executive decision-making in support of an incident response.

An EOC is a gathering place for operations, monitoring, communications, warning systems, and decision-making. Decision-making at the EOC affects the incident response as well as the public response. The decisions made at the EOC are not tactical decisions, however. Tactical decisions are made by the Incident Commander and the Command Staff at the incident scene. Local EOCs can also coordinate with the state EOC or neighboring EOCs to request support for an incident.

The EOC does not command or control the on-scene response. The EOC carries out the coordination function through:

  • Information collection and evaluation.
  • Priority setting.
  • Resource management.

There are three modes of operations in the Tuscaloosa County EOC:

  • Level 3 Standby – Limited personnel monitoring or managing a local event, weather situation, or smaller emergency incident.
  • Level 2 Partial Activation – All professional staff, volunteers, and those agencies essential to the response will respond. State and/or Federal agencies alerted.
  • Level 1 Full Activation – Numerous parties are working twenty-four hours from the EOC as a major event is expected or has occurred. State and/or Federal agencies assistance requested or expected.

Individuals from the following departments may be called upon to fulfill a critical role in the EOC:

  • Law Enforcement
  • Fire Service
  • E911 and Emergency Dispatches
  • Public Health
  • Public works or Departments of Transportation 
  • Non- Government Organizations (NGOs)

  • Elected and Appointed Officials

As you may expect, the EOC can be a very busy place but it is this necessary coordination between many community stakeholders that can most effectively handle a crisis.

To see FEMA's information on EOCs click: Emergency Operations Center How-to Quick Reference Guide

Below is an example of emergency management and the EOC in Fairfax County, VA:

Emergency Support Functions and Liaisons

Tuscaloosa County EMA (TCEMA) primarily operates where agency responsibilities have been functionally aligned according to the Emergency Support Function (ESF) concept.  Under this concept, developed by FEMA in 1992, types of assistance that are most likely needed in the aftermath of a major disaster are functionally grouped into ESFs.  Each ESF is headed by a primary agency which is selected based on its authorities, resources, capabilities, and the location of the Disaster at hand.


ESF #1 - Transportation


ESF #2 - Communications


ESF #3 - Public Works


ESF #4 – Firefighting


ESF #5 - Emergency Management


ESF #6 – Mass Care, Housing, and Human Services


ESF #7 – Logistics


ESF #8 – Public Health and Medical Services


ESF #9 – Search and Rescue


ESF #10 – Hazardous Materials


ESF #11 – Agriculture and Natural Resources, 

Nutrition Assistance, Food Safety


ESF #12 – Energy & Utilities


ESF #13 – Public Safety & Security


ESF #14 – Long Term Recovery


ESF #15 – External Affairs
















ESF #1 provides overall management, coordination, and prioritization, of government (Federal, State, or local) and private transportation resources to meet the requirements of disaster assistance organizations responding to a Tuscaloosa County event. 

ESF #2 plans, coordinates, and assists in communications support to county and local emergency response elements. This ESF also coordinates the communications assets (both equipment and services) available from State agencies, voluntary groups, County agencies, the telecommunications industry, Federal government agencies, and the U.S. military. ESF #2 is the focal point of all communications support activity at the county level before, during, and after the activation of the County Emergency Operations Center (EOC).

ESF# 3 provides technical advice and services utilizing the public works personnel, equipment, and resources of the designated primary and support agencies. ESF #3 provides these services to the areas of Tuscaloosa County impacted by an event, as well as assisting affected municipalities within the county with similar services when necessary. ESF #3 is primarily responsible for public works assistance and services in all unincorporated areas of the county, as well as for roadways and components of the infrastructure owned or operated by the county within its municipalities.

ESF #4 addresses control and coordination of fire suppression and prevention actions undertaken at the time of a major emergency or disaster threatening or impacting Tuscaloosa County or several of its municipalities. This ESF addresses firefighting activities conducted when other county ESFs are also activated to respond to and recover from an emergency or disaster event. This ESF does not address the normal day-to-day firefighting operations by Tuscaloosa County or any of its municipalities, but only those conducted during events requiring multi-jurisdictional operations and warranting the activation of the EOC.

ESF #5 addresses the work of the Emergency Operations Center: the collection, analysis, and exchange of information regarding a potential or actual emergency or disaster to enhance short and long-term planning for county-wide response and recovery operations.  

ESF #6 addresses the management and coordination of emergency services necessary for the care and support of individuals displaced by a disaster event in Tuscaloosa County. The scope of this ESF encompasses sheltering individuals evacuating threatened areas, as well as providing care for disaster victims remaining in damaged areas experiencing prolonged disruption to utilities and other fundamental community services. This could be the American Red Cross, Department of Human Resources (DHR), or another organization that helps provide this support.

ESF #7 provides coordination and/or provision of logistical and resource support for emergency response and recovery operations to other county ESFs and impacted municipalities within the county for an emergency or disaster situation affecting Tuscaloosa County.

ESF #8 is responsible for the coordination of health and medical services necessary for the public affected by a disaster, as well as emergency workers engaged in response and recovery activities within the county for that event.  The health and medical services to be provided include medical and mental health services for disaster victims and emergency workers.  Environmental Health Services will coordinate services related to detecting and correcting environmental dangers to aid in the reduction of environmental health risks in the aftermath of a disaster.


ESF #9 provides the coordination for search and rescue operations during emergencies and disasters occurring within Tuscaloosa County.


ESF #10 involves response to hazardous materials incidents that result in damages and disruptions caused by or resulting from other disaster events, whether natural or man-made in origin.  ESF #10 would also be utilized to coordinate the response to a major hazardous materials release occurring separately from other hazard events, whether caused by an accident or an intentional criminal act.


ESF #11 identifies, secures, and arranges for the acquisition, transportation, and distribution of food, ice, and water following a disaster. Food, water, and ice supplies will be made available for disaster victims and emergency workers in affected areas, at facilities activated for the response and recovery effort, and at on-scene locations, as indicated. Food and beverages obtained and distributed by ESF #11 will be prepared and served by ESF #6 Mass Care. ESF #11 also addresses animal care


ESF #12 coordinates response and recovery efforts by Tuscaloosa County to address emergency power, water and wastewater, and energy needs before, during, and after a disaster.

ESF #13 includes traffic and crowd control, maintaining civil order, looting prevention, building and shelter security, search and rescue, evacuation support, and other services needed to provide for the safety and security of the general public and the protection of property.  The scope of ESF 13 further includes enforcement of any emergency ordinances or temporary regulations imposed due to the event or its impacts. ESF #13 will also undertake to ensure the security of emergency workers, as well as facilities and locations activated for response and recovery efforts.


ESF #14 addresses disaster-related assistance and services provided by government and volunteer agencies following the response to a disaster or catastrophic event. It works to facilitate the community’s transition from a disaster situation to the resumption of normal activities at former or improved levels. 

ESF #15 provides for the coordination of emergency instructions and public information emanating from Tuscaloosa County at the time of a disaster.  This ESF defines the procedures and concepts that will be used by the County governments for developing and disseminating information and instructions to the public regarding emergencies, as well as to assist and support the print, electronic, and broadcast media in obtaining information regarding the event. This may be done through a Joint Information Center (JIC) or Individual Public Information Officers (PIOs).


Mutual Aid Agreements

Sometimes governments and other agencies have to use or activate Mutual Aid Agreements. These can be vital if more resources, manpower, skills, or other is needed during a disaster. These agreements allow companies, nongovernmental organizations, or levels of government to quickly provide assistance to each other. These Agreements may be kept at the EOC or the EOC may be asked to help facilitate the creation of one.  

What Are Mutual Aid Agreements and Assistance Agreements?

Mutual aid agreements and assistance agreements are agreements between agencies, organizations, and jurisdictions that provide a mechanism to quickly obtain emergency assistance in the form of personnel, equipment, materials, and other associated services.  The primary objective is to facilitate rapid, short-term deployment of emergency support prior to, during, and after an incident. A signed agreement does not obligate the provision or receipt of aid, but rather provides a tool for use should the incident dictate a need.

What Are the Different Types of Agreements?

There are several types of these kinds of agreements, including but not limited to the following:

  • Automatic Mutual Aid: Agreements that permit the automatic dispatch and response of requested resources without incident-specific approvals. These agreements are usually basic contracts; some may be informal accords.
  • Local Mutual Aid: Agreements between neighboring jurisdictions or organizations that involve a formal request for assistance and generally cover a larger geographic area than automatic mutual aid.
  • Regional Mutual Aid: Substate regional mutual aid agreements between multiple jurisdictions that are often sponsored by a council of governments or a similar regional body.
  • Statewide/Intrastate Mutual Aid: Agreements, often coordinated through the State, that incorporate both State and local governmental and nongovernmental resources in an attempt to increase preparedness statewide.
  • Interstate Agreements: Out-of-State assistance through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) or other formal State-to-State agreements that support the response effort.
  • International Agreements: Agreements between the United States and other nations for the exchange of Federal assets in an emergency.
  • Other Agreements: Any agreement, whether formal or informal, used to request or provide assistance and/or resources among jurisdictions at any level of government (including foreign), nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), or the private sector.

Jurisdictions should be a party to agreements with the appropriate jurisdictions and/or organizations (including NGOs and the private sector, where appropriate) from which they expect to receive, or to which they expect to provide assistance. States should participate in interstate compacts and look to establish intrastate agreements that encompass all local jurisdictions. Authorized officials from each of the participating jurisdictions and/or organizations should collectively approve all mutual aid agreements and assistance agreements.

Memorandums of understanding and memorandums of agreement are needed with the private sector and NGOs, including community-based, faith-based, and national organizations such as the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army, to facilitate the timely delivery of assistance during incidents.

What Is Included in Agreements?

Agreements, preferably written, should include the following elements or provisions:

  • Definitions of key terms used in the agreement
  • Roles and responsibilities of individual parties
  • Procedures for requesting and providing assistance
  • Procedures, authorities, and rules for payment, reimbursement, and allocation of costs
  • Notification procedures
  • Protocols for interoperable communications
  • Relationships with other agreements among jurisdictions
  • Workers’ compensation
  • Treatment of liability and immunity
  • Recognition of qualifications, licensure, and certifications
  • Sharing agreements, as required
  • Termination clause

To see FEMA's guidelines on Mutual Aid click: National Incident Management System Guideline for Mutual Aid