Warwickshire County Emergency Centre (Formerly Warwickshire County Control ) is located in the sub-basement of Shire Hall (County Council Headquarters) in Barrack Street, Warwick. Shire Hall was built in 1966 incorporating the new protected control centre which replaced the former civil defence control centre beneath the Butts Museum that had been operational since WW2. The emergency centre was upgraded and modernised in 1985 with further modifications in the mid 1990’s and is still fully operational. It is used for regular exercises and is brought into use during any county emergency with a staff of up to 40.
At the bottom of the stairs into the subbasement the entrance to the bunker is through an air lock consisting of two gas tight doors. These are the original doors and it is unusual to find that they were not replaced with heavy blast doors during the 1985 refit. The airlock opens into the ‘Agency Room’ the largest room in the bunker. The room would have been used by all the agencies (fire, police, ambulance etc) that would need to be represented. It has tables along the two long walls, each with phone and power sockets; each agency would bring phones, computers etc. with them. One long table is reserved for fax machines. There are a number of blank white boards around the walls for writing on and one single map, a 1:50,000 Ordnance Survey map of Warwickshire. The room has been subdivided into two with movable screens and one half of the room has rows of chairs and audio visual equipment and is obviously used as a training room when the emergency centre is not required for its primary function. Most of the other rooms in the bunker are accessed from this agency room.
Entering from the air lock, the first room on the left is the unisex toilet. This is connected to the mains water supply although chemical toilets are also available if required. The next room on the left is the kitchen, this was modernised in the 1980’s and is fitted with wooden floor standing units, a stainless steel sink (fitted with an electric pump) and draining board, stainless steel water heater, microwave cooker and a large water tank. The third and final room on the left hand side is now the ‘Press Room’ but its original purpose is unclear, perhaps it was the dormitory.
Opposite the entrance airlock is the ‘Managers Room’ which also acts as a conference room, it is here all the major decisions would be taken. There is one large table in the centre of the room with chairs all around it and another county map of Warwickshire on the wall. At the far end is a door into the spacious ‘Operations Room’. This room was originally sub-divided with a controllers cabin and scientific advisors room but the partition walls were removed in the 1990’s. There are four tables along one side each with as computer terminal and two phone lines one connected to the Emergency Communications Network (ECN) and the other to the Shire Hall exchange. There is another county map on the wall and a number of white writing boards.
At the far end of the operations room a door opens into what is now a store room. This was originally the BT equipment room and also housed the ECN unit (which has now been moved). There are still some redundant BT boxes on one wall. At one end of the store room is a gas tight door opening into a 100 foot long escape tunnel, at the far end is another gas tight door, opening into the staff multi storey car park.
Back in the store room, a door in the opposite wall opens into the ‘Comcen’ (Communications Centre). There is a long table with four incoming phone lines and the SX2000 ECN unit with its associated control equipment. There is also a small message passing window back into the agency room. From the Comcen a gas door leads into the ventilation plant room. Most of the plant was replaced in the 1985 refit. It is in good order and kept running during ‘office hours’. There is a large fuel tank against one wall. There are two further gas tight doors in the plant room, one opens into the bottom of an emergency escape shaft which has a wide 25 foot steel ladder fixed to the wall.
At the top of the ladder is a gas tight hatch opening on to the roof of a surface building. The other gas door opens into the ‘Standby Generator Room’. The original 1960’s Dale generator is still in place and regularly tested. In one corner of the room there is a WB1400 carrier receiver. The final room in the bunker is the ‘Radio Room’ in a partitioned off end of the agency room. This room is used by Raynet.
All the rooms had the ventilation trunking boxed in during the 1985 refit with the exception of the Comcen and the radio room where it’s exposed, these rooms are little altered since 1966. All the internal doors are painted a dull brown, a colour that also seems to have been left over from the 1960’s. Those present were Nick Catford, Robin Cherry and Keith Ward
Those taking part in the visit were Nick Catford, Keith Ward and Robin Cherry.