CONWAY Be it hurricane, flood, forest fire or bikefest during Memorial Day weekend, the county’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is open here to coordinate logistics with first responders in the field.
But as the county continues to grow and government agencies with it, the EOC has run out of room to operate at the M. L. Brown Public Safety Building on North Main Street.
And ironically, street flooding sometimes requires a four-wheel drive vehicle in order to access the building from Conway.
So county officials are looking to move the EOC further west out of harms way of future disasters to operate without becoming part of the emergency, and with room to grow.
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The ideal place, officials say, is closer to Aynor.
Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus says he’s been in discussions with County Administrator Chris Eldridge, and they agree that “it’s time to get serious” about the move.
“With Hurricane Matthew, we literally had people sleeping in the hallways,” Lazarus said. “We don’t have a good place to stage people who come in from electric companies, telephone companies, and other services that we utilize to stage their equipment to be able to send them in.”
“Plus, the western part of Horry County, you’re kind of out of the zone, we need to make sure that we continue to have communications,” Lazarus said.
The move is still under discussion and no specific site has been selected. Lazarus said they are looking at “a couple of pieces of property somewhere close to Aynor.”
Property would not be purchased until next year, and then it could take two or three years to construct a new facility.
Lazarus describes it as a multi-use facility that could be used for the EOC, public meetings, parks and recreation, and a shooting range.
The gun range would be constructed with a grant from the S.C. Department of Natural Resources that is available to the county, Lazarus said.
By relocating the EOC out of the public safety building, it also gives the police and fire departments more room to grow.
Randy Webster, EOC director, said the current facility has some limitations, but it functions “fairly well” during hurricanes, floods and wildfires.
“So far we’ve had no earthquakes or tsunamis. If we can keep those at bay, we’ll be in good shape,” Webster said.