Expo Center provides original purpose during flooding event

Published 12:23 pm Saturday, April 2, 2016

By Dawn Burleigh


The building has been known as many names since its conception such as the C.H.A.M.P.S building, the 1442 building, the shelter of last resort but officially the Orange County Convention and Expo Center located centrally in the county at 11475 Farm to Market Road 1442 in Orange.

The $10.5 million building originally set to hold the Emergency Operations Center and Emergency Management, but expanded to function as a multi-purpose building housing five county departments as well as a ballroom and two conference rooms for rent.

Funding for the building came from insurance funds and Disaster Recovery Funding, according to a previously published article in The Orange Leader.

Prior to the construction of the building, Emergency Operations Center would operate out of the AT&T building.

The Emergency Operations Center received funding through the 2009 Port Security Grant cycle, paying for the rest of the technology and classrooms now available for first responders.

The county owned a portion of the land while Community Hands Assemble a Multipurpose Structure (C.H.A.M.P.S) own the rest. C.H.A.M.P.S donated the land to the county.

The building was designed for the Emergency Operations Center to be in full operating status within 30 minutes to an hour after receiving notice of an impending disaster.

The building housed most of the 230 first responders who arrived prior to the waters flooding the east side of Orange.

“Most of the first responders were housed at the Expo,” Orange County Emergency Management Coordinator Ryan Peabody said. “All of the responders were fed here. The facility functioned for the intended purpose for which it was built.”

The center was never meant to be a shelter for citizens but a central location for first responders and emergency operations during a disaster.

“The building help improve coordination efforts and facilitate an effective response,” Peabody said.

At the height of the release of water from Toledo Bend Dam was equivalent to five times greater than the water from Niagara Falls, according to Peabody.