Kelly Kovac-Reedy's bright eyes circled a room within the city's new emergency operations center. "A dream turned into a reality," she said.
Kovac-Reedy, co-founder of the Hermosa Beach Neighborhood Watch program, surveyed the room that had stood vacant for 30 years but now serves as an emergency center, Hermosa Beach Amateur Radio Association office, meeting place for public safety groups and training room for emergency personnel.
She took it all in at a grand opening ceremony for the emergency center Wednesday, held at the Hermosa Beach Community Center on Pier Avenue. More than 75 people stopped by the daylong event.
Mayor Michael DiVirgilio said he was pleased that this community-driven project has come to fruition.
After realizing that Hermosa was one of the only cities in Los Angeles County to not have its own emergency operations center, Ken Hartley proposed to build one in 2007.
No stranger to launching community projects as founder of the Hermosa Beach Amateur Radio Association, Hartley began building the center with volunteer help right away.
"In today's economy especially, it's always great seeing a collection of volunteers donate time, money and materials," DiVirgilio said. "It makes things like this that much more beneficial."
Staffed by volunteers, most of the time the center will be used for non-emergency purposes, such as Neighborhood Watch events or radio training.
"This is also a place where the police and fire department can improve training," Hartley said. "They now have the option to do classroom-style training which they didn't have before."
But during an emergency, the center will serve as the city's communication headquarters. With the radio association sharing the new center's space, the city now has access to radio-tracked global information that can help prevent local disasters.
"The new center opens doors for Hermosa Beach to communicate with the state operations center," Hartley said.
The city will be on the "leading edge" in obtaining global radio broadcast information with its new high-frequency communication capabilities at the center, said Michael Barry of the South Bay Emergency Communications Service in Rolling Hills Estates.
"Most cities aren't going to have [that information] and will be crying for it," Barry said. "The city of Hermosa Beach will be the net giver of information instead of a seeker."
Around the same time Hartley began the emergency center project, Kovac-Reedy and Tracy Hopkins, co-founders of Hermosa Beach Neighborhood Watch, were still struck by the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
Seeing those communities in disarray not only sparked a grassroots effort to construe the local neighborhood watch program, but also interest in emergency service efforts.
"Five years ago, it was a terrible example of what an emergency operations center would be," Kovac-Reedy said about New Orleans.
She and Hopkins agreed that in light of disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, cities should have a program that would introduce disaster preparedness to residents. The two thought that the emergency operations center couldn't have come at a better time.
The emergency operations center was established with help from the Hermosa Beach Kiwanis, Arts Foundation, fire and police associations, Leadership Hermosa Class of 2010, the Amateur Radio Association, emergency preparedness and Neighborhood Watch.
"We're taking disaster preparedness seriously," DiVirgilio said. "Because of the whole collaborative effort, it's clear that every aspect of the community, the residents, the community groups, the businesses and the city are interested and taking it seriously."