Emergency shelter for first responders

If Hurricane Isaac had hit Southeast Texas Orange County would have been in major trouble, as currently it have no safe, emergency shelter facilities.

But now the counties first "shelter of last resort" is under construction, so first responders can use it as an escape from a major storm that heads our way.

After seven years of planning and about a year of construction the Orange County shelter of last resort should be complete by the end of December.

"Whenever the storm starts coming we'll lock down the building and ride it out and then we'll open it up and respond to the incident," said the Director of Emergency Management in Orange County, Jeff Kelley.

He says the building will be a place to protect first responders in times of disaster like a tornado or hurricane.

"It'll withstand 200 mph winds and it'll withstand the impact from flying debris," said Kelley.

"This resource out here is going to be greatly appreciated by first responders in Orange County," said Deputy Fire Chief Jerry Ziller.

During hurricane Rita, Ziller remembers cramming his entire department into a first grade classroom because an elementary school was their only form of emergency shelter.

"The 400 folks that were housed at that elementary school have were the first responders for the entire county," said Ziller. "Just think if a tornado tore through that building."

The facility will also be equipped with basic essentials for medical emergencies.

Throughout the year when this building isn't being used for emergencies offices like these will be used by county departments for their day-to-day operations.

One of the rooms in the shelter will be available for public use throughout the year.

"Weddings and receptions and parties, the calendar is already starting to fill up," said Ziller.

And as far as the emergency shelter goes, both Ziller and Kelley agree, they hope it's never used.

The emergency shelter will house four county departments throughout the year: the Office for the Agrilife Extension, Health and Code Compliance, Road and Bridge and the Office for Emergency Management.

The facility can hold at least 700 people and cost about $10 million dollars, which was largely paid for through grants, state funding and private donations.


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