GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Outside, it looks like a typical office building. The inside is anything but typical. An emergency dispatch center watches over the entire power grid. A large storm center war room is the heart and soul of the building. Jeff Franklin is the Vice President of Customer Services for Mississippi Power.
"This is the nerve center. This is where all the critical decisions are made, and the leadership team of the company is here. We coordinate with other agencies around the state," Franklin explained.
The center was built because of lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina, according to Storm Director Randall Pinkston.
"It was so catastrophic that is slowed the process down in the sense that we know that our control center, our command center was damaged. We realized that going forward, moving out of the storms troubled way as best we could was going to be advantageous to us in the future," Pinkston said.
The latest technology will help the power restoring process. Patrick Calomese is the Distribution Control Center Supervisor.
"We made great advances after Hurricane Katrina; the smart grid and the smart system. We have hundreds of devices out there, the latest technology out there, not only in the system in this building but throughout our entire service territory," Calomese said.
Although the main reason this operation center was built well north of Interstate 10, eight miles north to be exact, to avoid the storm surge along the coast, it was also built to be strong as well, according to Pinkston.
"It is built to 200 plus mph wind category, so it should withstand those type winds. Hopefully we won't experience that, but it is built to those standards," said Pinkston.
It's not just the building that's stronger. Steve Craig is the Transmission General Manager.
"One thing we're doing is we're modifying our infrastructure. We're strengthening that. That's a continual process. We look for the threats that happen both from a physical and a technology side, so we strengthen our infrastructure system," said Craig.
That strength could make all the difference when the next storm strikes. The operations and storm center was built in 2008. It's located about a mile north of Highway 53, just off Highway 49.