by Chris Marchewka
The new Isle of Palms Public Safety Building at #30 J.C. Long Blvd. will be near completion on the twenty-seventh of this month as vital communications equipment is installed for the Police Department. The last few weeks have seen largely cosmetic additions to the building like blinds, shelving, and ceiling tiles, as well as more important systems like door locks, security cameras, telephones and internet. The large facility houses the Fire Department as well, and has been in construction for a little more than a year, but it’s definitely time well spent. The new Public Safety Building is built to withstand winds in excess of 150mph, unlike its forbearer, which fell victim to Hurricane Hugo in 1989. A replacement building was constructed quickly after and while effective, lacked the space for the Isle of Palms Police Department to efficiently perform their job.
“We were very cramped,” said Lieutenant Raymond Wright, “We’ve never had a space like this before.”
The new building was constructed with these problems in mind and it’s safe to say that the Isle of Palms’ finest have a great facility at their disposal.
The first floor contains the secured police garage, the fire engine bay, and an entrance for citizens that will automatically open and lock depending upon the hours of operation. Upstairs, the second floor contains front desks for both the Fire Department and the Police Department. A large room in the middle will serve as a high tech classroom, wired to teach firefighters and police officers the latest techniques in their respective professions. The room will also be made available to island residents.
“We like to think it’ll be a community friendly building,” said Fire Chief Ann Graham. “We’ll be able to offer it [the classroom] to the public for specific events.”
The building can alternately be converted to an Emergency Operations Center in the state of an emergency, utilizing power from the station’s massive 1500 gallon diesel generator, which is capable of supplying the building with continuous power for two weeks.
The first of two large rooms on the police side is mainly for suspect processing. Stark cement floors and small bars placed along the wall to attach handcuffs creates a very serious mood. Lockers for evidence line one wall until they meet two doors which lead to smaller rooms, one of which will contain lab equipment for processing drug tests. The other room contains only a table and two seats for suspect interrogation. A one way mirror faces the suspect observation room, where a security camera will eventually be installed. The second large room contains a large table and whiteboard, where officers can hold pre and post shift meetings. Offices for police officials like Lieutenant Wright line the exterior of that half of the building, as well as an evidence room, communications room, armory, mail room, locker rooms and break room.
The fire department side of the second floor contains offices in addition to an area for fire prevention education; affectionately known as the Sparky Room. The third floor houses living quarters for the firefighters and consists of captain’s quarters, a laundry room and two-man rooms. The kitchen, complete with stove, sink, oven, refrigerators and pantry, is connected to a living room containing several big recliners and a flat screen TV paid for with the firefighters’ own money. Connecting all floors on the fire department’s side is a grated metal stairwell, with connections for fire hoses. It can serve as a practice area for firefighters when not on call. Along the same lines, a window on the third floor was constructed for practicing with ladders and rappelling. The engine bay is much larger than it appears from the outside and easily contains the fire and ladder trucks. The first floor bay also has an equipment shop, EMS storage room and decontamination room, all of which are completely flood proof. The highest point in the facility is a shared workout room, where members of both departments are encouraged to stay in top physical shape. The workout room is also available to all city employees.
What’s truly remarkable is the facility’s perfect fit into the surrounding area, mirroring other buildings in style and maintaining the island’s identity while housing very large vehicles and equipment. Tourists, maybe even some residents, won’t even know it’s there at first glance. The new Public Safety Building couldn’t be completed at a better time as the highpoint of hurricane season draws near; Isle of Palms police and fire have never been better positioned to ensure the safety of their citizens.