GEORGETOWN COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – Construction will close the 701 bridge nightly, separating Horry and Georgetown Counties, affecting the route emergency responders usually take to the hospital.
Starting Monday Nov. 5, the bridge over Yauhannah Lake will be closed for repairs from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. The detour will take drivers 51 miles away, adding precious time to emergency response efforts.
"If we have a structure fire and we need manpower or additional resources we call Horry County," explains Tony Hucks, the Assistant Chief for the Georgetown County Fire Department.
Emergency response teams work together over the county line. That connection will be cut off every night for the rest of the year while crews work on the bridge.
"When the bridge closes, it will be completely closed to all vehicles, including EMS. Crews will have too much equipment on the bridge to allow emergency responders to pass safely," says Jason Thompson with the SCDOT.
Thompson explains that during construction projects like this, emergency response plans are left up to the individual departments in the area. The Georgetown County Fire Department assures residents that they are ready and prepared for the road closures.
"As far as emergency response for structure fires, that will limit our response to Horry County," says Hucks.
Emergency responders are pulling resources from surrounding counties on the same side of the bridge while construction continues.
"Generally, we land a helicopter if a trauma patient needs to go to a designated trauma center," explains Hucks.
Trauma patients will be brought to McLeod Regional Medical Center since it will be closer than taking the detour to Grand Strand.
"Those are limited hours while the bridge is closed, but it will not affect response time," assures Hucks.
Crews hope to have the construction wrapped up by December 31, 2012.