Law enforcement officials preparing for Bikefest are pleased with the way plans for a unified command center is coming along — the first year officials are using it for the Memorial Day weekend rally.
Randy Webster, director of emergency management services who chairs the Bikefest Task Force for the county, met with local law enforcement and medical officials Thursday to discuss progress of the plan.
“There shouldn’t be a whole lot of challenges with this because it’s all going to be seamless,” Webster said. “The law enforcement community will all be together and they’ll be able to make decisions without having to talk to somebody on the radio or the phone, especially if things need to be done quickly as the event may generate the need.”
Webster said the unified command center will keep communication with various police departments throughout the Grand Strand.
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The command center will be at Myrtle Beach Police Department Annex station at The Market Common. Law enforcement leaders from various communities throughout the Grand Strand and state officials will be stationed at the command center to streamline efforts of all agencies involved.
In years past, agencies worked together for catastrophes like hurricanes, a major 2013 fire in Windsor Green condominiums and last February conducted a simulation called Coastal Response, which was a hands-on training exercise in the event of a plane crash.
Myrtle Beach Police Chief Warren Gall said his department was on simulated “stand-by” for that drill, which pertains to much of the activities planned for Bikefest.
“It’s no different here,” Gall said. “A lot of the events will be happening outside of the city limits, that’s why we’re asking for a unified command so we have representation from those various law enforcement agencies that’ll have responsibility out there that we can all collaborate and make decisions that will affect all of us.
“Obviously if there’s an incident that happens in North Myrtle Beach and they need resources, they’re coming from everybody. Everybody’s going to help them just like they would come and help us. Have those unified decision makers in our unified command post, it’ll make it easier to make a critical call without having any delay.”
Plans to prevent a repeat of last year’s deadly Memorial Day Bikefest have been a near-yearlong effort. Three people died and seven were injured in eight shootings on Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach last Bikefest and officials have been working to be more prepared with law enforcement, and have worked to send early message to visitors to “be safe, have fun and follow the law.”
More than 100 officers and private security will man a 23-mile traffic loop — from 29th Avenue North on Ocean Boulevard south and around to Kings Highway, north to Harrelson Boulevard – which turns into George Bishop Parkway – west to Waccamaw Boulevard, which runs next to U.S. 501, onto S.C. 31 heading north to Grissom Parkway south, then onto U.S. 17 Bypass and down 29th Avenue North — that will be in place overnight on Memorial Day weekend. The loop will be put in place in an effort to keep traffic moving and cut down on street parties.
Only two more task force meetings are planned before the Bikefest, and Chief Gall said his department is prepared.
“We’ve been practicing it through the time, it’s just now come to the point that this is a better way to approach this than we did in the past,” he said of the unified command post. “Not to say that we’ve been splintered in the past, we’ve all been on the phone and we’ve been in connection with each other through those other events, this is just more formalization of it to try and make things a little more simpler.
“There’s a demand out there from the public to know what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. This just makes it simpler, and makes it easier to get the word out. And I think that’s what the public is demanding. ... We’re doing the best with what we have available, and we’re going to implement it to the best of our abilities. Hopefully it’s going to come out great.”