Hilton Head Island Fire & Rescue Division officials asked the Town of Hilton Head Island to consider adding an off-island hurricane evacuation facility for its staff and equipment at a Public Safety Commission meeting Monday.
The request was met with questions about the cost and need for such a building from town councilmen John McCann and Bill Harkins, who sit on the committee. Fire & Rescue Chief Lavarn Lucas said he did not have cost estimates for the building. He recommended retrofitting an existing building rather than building a new one to save on costs.
"We’re not talking about a Taj Mahal," Lucas said. "A warehouse would be fine as long as it is large enough and we think it could withstand the storm."
The structure would need to house about 160 Fire and Rescue first responders and staff, Lucas said.
McCann said Fire & Rescue should pursue sharing the building and its costs with the island’s public service districts, the towns of Hilton Head Island and Bluffton and the Bluffton Township Fire District.
The department’s current plan calls for them to evacuate to the University of South Carolina Beaufort campus in Bluffton for storms less severe than Category 4. For more powerful storms, the department would relocate to Barnwell, S.C. Lucas said there were problems with both locations.
Adding an evacuation facility was one of 34 recommendations reviewed at the meeting Monday. The department’s 2013 strategic plan included 54 items for the committee to consider.
No votes were taken on the recommendations today. The remaining suggestions will be discussed Thursday, when the committee will vote on whether to pass the plan along to Town Council.