From WMBF News Partner MyHorryNews.com:
The first Horry County Mobile Command Center was a salvaged Vietnam-era ambulance.
A few years later, emergency workers hauled a covered trailer all over the county. Then they turned to a refurbished Coast RTA bus.
During his 27 years with the county, Emergency Management Director Randy Webster has seen four mobile centers, including the 16-year-old water-damaged RV the county now uses.
"All of it was hand-me-down things," Webster said. "We always run into the same problems. There's just not enough ability to do the job that needs to be done."
To address that challenge, county officials are making plans to spend $667,000 on a new 36-foot mobile center, which could be used during SWAT standoffs or to provide shelter for county workers during natural disasters.
Unlike the older, repurposed vehicles, officials say the new one would be built for intense use and would have modern communications systems, bathroom facilities and cooking equipment.
"If we had a unit like this during the flood, we could have done a better job on some remote work," Webster said. "We could potentially pipe information in to the [Emergency Operations Center]. If you go back to the wildfire of 2009 where we had units spread out all over the place and we had a command post but it was disconnected … To manage these large events, we just don't have the capability we need to do it. It is a problem and it's going to continue to be a problem and we do have an opportunity that we don't ever get, it seems like, to address it with something that will be there for years to come."
County officials started looking for a new command center after receiving a $57,000 grant to refurbish the current RV, a 2000 model.
"The question was posed whether it would make more sense for us to, instead of investing in a 16-year-old piece of equipment, if we could put together money for acquiring a new mobile command unit," said Justin Powell, an assistant county administrator.
"I hated to see what I thought may be [throwing] good money after bad," County Administrator Chris Eldridge said.
So the county cobbled together leftover money from police body camera purchases, savings from the Juniper Bay Fire Station construction, the grant and a few other sources.
Although the center is used during disasters, Eldridge stressed that any county department could utilize the vehicle.
"There's no ownership," he said. "They've all heard me preach, 'Our paychecks all say Horry County. They don't say a department name on it.' … Anybody that needs it, they can take it out."
Webster said he toured this type of command center this week and it can be updated and expanded to accommodate the county's needs.
"It's an investment in the future," he said. "That's my two cents, but I've been through four of them and here we are again."
This article is from WMBF News partner MyHorryNews.com. Click here to view the original article.