Workers are putting the finishing touches on Orange County's state of the art shelter of last resort facility that will serve double duty when not in use during an emergency. The official name of the new facility is the Orange County Convention and Expo Center.
In times of emergency, it will be a shelter of last resort and emergency operations center giving police, fire, first responders and essential county personnel a place to ride out any storm so they can immediately serve the community when the threat has ended. The almost 60,000 square foot building will serve multiple purposes and community needs.
Jeff Kelley is the Emergency Management Director for Orange County. For the past year-and-a-half construction on the facility has been his life. He says the emergency operations center and the policy room will help county emergency personnel and county officials make decisions during emergencies. When there is not an emergency, The $10 million building will house county offices that were destroyed by Hurricane Ike.
Half of the building can be used by the public for conventions or banquets. After a hurricane or other emergency It will be used as a shelter of last resort with the capacity to house approximately 400 people.
On the other side of the building, the county offices double as emergency shelter for fire, police and first responders to ride out any storm and have the command center in a central place.
Kelley says, "We can stand up the E.O.C. In less than an hour."
Two conference rooms in the facility are designated for a post landfall medical shelter of last resort with the capacity to take care of those who have special medical needs after a storm. They will be equipped with 16 Murphy beds and have the capacity to house medical support and the equipment they need.
Judge Thibodeaux, says, "It's a state of the art facility and I'm proud to be able to say that we were part of building it for Orange County and Southeast Texas."
The facility is located in the center of the county on Highway 1442, just off Interstate 10.
$8 million of the cost of the building was paid for with Ike funding and the other $2 million came from grant money.