Behind the Scenes: Inside the DC Mayor’s Command Center

The people watching when something big happens in Washington.

By: Carol Ross Joynt

The official name is the Emergency Operations Center of the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, but most people call this facility in DC’s Anacostia simply the mayor’s command center. When something big happens in Washington—a blizzard, a destructive summer storm, a special event such as the presidential inauguration or the State of the Union address—the center’s 63 computer stations are fired up and staffed by representatives from every major federal and local agency in the area, including the Secret Service, the FBI, FEMA, the DC police department, and the utilities. All eyes are trained on computers and walls of TV screens that beam live images from homeland-security agencies and traffic cameras, cable news, and local TV. In the foreground of this photo, hunched over his laptop, is Charles Davis, the center’s evening-watch officer. Davis calls last year’s derecho the most memorable recent event: “It was heartbreaking to know that so many residents were suffering without power. Times like that make me proud to work for HSEMA, because it helps keep people safe.”

This article appears in the February 2013 issue of The Washingtonian.