The planned move by York County's Emergency Operations Center to the former Rock Hill National Bank building should make the county a more effective responder in the event of an emergency.
County officials recently agreed to buy the bank's former operations center on Black Street for $875,000. The top floor of the two-story, 18,000-square-foot building would be dedicated to dispatch and emergency operations, giving emergency management a new home for the first time in more than 40 years.
EOC workers no doubt are saying it's about time. The agency has been housed since the 1960s in cramped quarters in Rock Hill City Hall.
"We've been out of space for some time," said Cotton Howell, York County's director of emergency management. "We have people working in closets, in storage rooms and in their coats because some of the areas don't have sufficient heat."
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Over the years, of course, the duties of the EOC have evolved. The agency first was concerned primarily with natural disasters, such as hurricanes and tornadoes. Construction of the Catawba Nuclear Station created the need for a contingency plan in the event of a nuclear accident.
After the attacks of 9-11, cities and counties throughout the nation had to consider local response plans for the aftermath of a terrorist attack. And with increased global trade and travel, emergency officials have to be ready for outbreaks of deadly contagious diseases, such as bird flu.
Howell noted recently that, with growing emergency needs, the EOC can't be as effective as it should be because of space restrictions at City Hall. Thus, the need for a bigger building becomes not only a matter of comfort for EOC workers but also a public health and safety issue.
While the Black Street building would be used exclusively for emergency operations in the future, for now it might provide space on the first floor for other county needs. The county plans to add new heating and cooling systems and make repairs throughout the building.
But, as a former bank building, it was a secure facility, which serves the needs of the EOC. It also features a raised-floor data and computer room that could serve as a communications center for the EOC.
Cost of upgrades has not been calculated. But the county has an option of backing out of the deal if it appears the building cannot be renovated to meet its needs.
For now, the prospect of finding a new home for the EOC after 40 years in the basement of City Hall is reassuring. We hope the deal works out to the satisfaction of all.
York County Emergency Operations Center may move to old bank building.
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