NEW TOWN, N.D. (KXNET) — Wednesday marked the groundbreaking for a center in New Town that will help emergency personnel and community members prepare for the worst.

The MHA Nation Emergency Operations Center and Three Affiliated Tribes Fire Management Facility is now under construction.

The purpose of the center is to help prepare for and respond to catastrophes.

“All the things that can impact us and can hurt and cause severity to us are becoming more and more numerous. And it was time to really put our foot down and establish our services and this facility that’ll help us address those emergencies,” said MHA Nation Chairman Mark Fox.

The building will include a command, or situation room, for different agencies to work together, a press conference room, and training rooms for emergency personnel.

“We’ll also have a storm shelter and a safe room. Those are both FEMA-rated. And I believe together they can hold up to 500 people total. We will also EOC offices, and fire management offices, emergency bays, and mass care cafeteria,” said Emergency Operation Center Director Emily Sitting Bear.

Sitting Bear says the goal of the EOC is to reduce the vulnerability and increase the resiliency of MHA Nation.

“What I would like to see it bring, and what we are currently actively working on right now, is to establish a whole community approach to any kind of disaster, any kind of emergency that we may face in the future. We can’t prevent these kinds of things from happening, but we can improve upon how we respond and recover from them,” said Sitting Bear.

Chairman Fox agrees, he says he hopes the EOC saves lives by providing a high-level response to emergencies.

“And it might be a power outage in the middle of winter, where people have no heat. It could be tornadoes coming through. It could be, again like we just experienced, a pandemic that hits us and causes such harsh devastation and things of that nature, and we want to be ready,” said Chairman Fox.

The building is expected to be completed by the fall of 2023.

The EOC was established by the Tribal Business Council and other senior officials in 2020 as a direct response to the Pandemic.

But Emily Sitting Bear says it expanded when more critical incident management needs were recognized.