MURRELLS INLET, SC (WMBF) - This weekend kicks off the first bike rally of the season, but emergency responders aren't waiting to get ready. They've been planning a year in advance in order to keep the roads safe.
Officials believe this will be the biggest rally yet, and all that traffic will come right through Murrells Inlet, creating a roadblock for emergency responders trying to get to this area during the rally. Because they can't change the roads - they are changing their response patterns, especially during the late-night hours, when people are out drinking.
Captain Jerry Howerton with Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire Rescue says they plan to "put a rapid response vehicle out, so larger vehicles like our engines stay put, and we can get to the patient quicker."
It's one way Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire Rescue is preparing for the rally, putting out fully-equipped blazers on the streets with a trained medic which can maneuver through the crowds faster than an engine or ambulance. It's their way of maximizing their manpower with the resources they have.
"We haven't seen very serious wrecks," Captain Howerton said. "But we saw about a ten percent increase to calls compared to the year before."
Emergency Responders expect another ten percent increase in calls this year, meaning more than 100 calls during the rally. Working hand in hand with rally organizers, Captain Howerton says as soon as one bike rally is over - they start planning for the next. This one is expected to bring in 20 to 30 percent more people than before.
While the Atlantic Beach Bike Fest isn't until the end of the month, North Myrtle Beach is already preparing its emergency response plan. On Monday night, the City Council approved a motion for a mutual aid agreement, saying at least 110 officers will be dedicated just to the North Myrtle Beach area, including a motorcycle unit with local and state agencies.
While the number of bikers for the rally here is revving up, police in North Myrtle Beach say they see a different trend in Atlantic Beach - bikers are no longer staying right in the area - but spending more time outside the city limits.