New Emergency Operations Center, 911 communications center unveiled in Lexington

Two of Lexington County’s most vital services now have a new home under one roof.

Officials cut the ribbon on the Emergency Operations and 911 Communications Center on Thursday morning to usher in an improved phase for the departments.

County Administrator Joe Mergo said the event was the culmination of several years of strategic planning to get the county’s emergency communications the space and equipment they needed. The project has been in the works for about five years with construction taking a full year.

“The 911 center really needed to be expanded. Currently, it’s in the basement of the administration building,” Mergo said. “We also wanted the EOC to be housed with the 911 center.”

The new facility on Ball Park Road will provide space for the data center’s backup servers as well.

With additional square footage, EOC personnel can streamline their training and disaster preparedness process. Mergo explained that it usually takes hours to set up the equipment and displays, but the designated training area will have enough room to leave some aspects ready at all times.

If disaster does strike, the center was built in a way to ensure emergency personnel will have access to the resources they’ll need to manage the situation. The county received a $1 million grant from the federal government, and as a result, the facility was constructed to be compliant with FEMA 361 guidelines. In fact, the center is a Category 5 structure and is equipped with dual generators and more.

“If needed, we can operate for 144 hours on generator power,” Mergo said.

Lexington Medical Center provided additional grant monies to make the project possible. Commercial Mobile Radio Service funds collected by the state also will help reimburse costs for some of the new 911 equipment the county has purchased. Mergo said a portion of the existing technology will be transferred and reused but the 911 system will be fully upgraded.

Mashburn Construction was the primary contractor on site; the company was awarded the bid in May of 2o12 in the amount of $7.7 million. Mergo added that county officials were adamant about using subcontractors and other crews from the Midlands whenever possible, and that goal was accomplished.

The Emergency Operations and 911 Communications Center will be home to about 20 staff members at a time with 10 911 operators among those. Operations are set to begin there in October.