Horry County breaks ground on new Emergency Operations and Communications Center

Updated: Nov. 19, 2020 at 10:02 PM EST
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CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - Horry County’s 911 center and emergency operations department will be under the same roof soon.

Officials broke ground on a new Emergency Operations and Communications Center Thursday afternoon. Horry County will spend $16 million on the 43,600 square foot building.

That’s a price the county is willing to pay to make sure it can keep people, including emergency employees, safe during a natural disaster.

“This is the most critical piece of infrastructure in county government,” said Randy Webster, assistant administrator of public safety. “This has been a long time coming and it’s something we’ve needed for so long.”

The facility will be able to withstand winds up to 160 miles an hour. It also won’t flood, something that can’t be said about the current emergency operation center at the M.L. Brown building in Conway.

“When we started working through Florence a few years ago, we had a few major issues pop up, and all I could think about was the building, the building, the building,” said Webster. “Is it going to go away? Is it going to be here? What are we going to do?”

The new emergency operation center will be located across from J. Reuben Long Detention Center. Members of the county council said a few factors that went into that decision.

“One of the reasons we’re in this particular location is because there’s a fiber link that goes right by out here,” said Horry County Councilman Johnny Vaught. “It allows us to have communications and uninterrupted communications.”

Renee Hardwick, 911 director, said she started her emergency operations career in the early ’80s in a closet at the old police department.

Four decades later, she’s finally getting a facility designed for what she does.

“It really is about space, and also the fact that it’s being designed as a 911 center and it’s not a space that’s being re-allocated for something,” said Hardwick. “It’s going to be great that it’s actually designed for what we do every day. That’s the best thing.”

If everything goes according to schedule, officials estimate construction will be complete by spring 2022.

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