New call center to speed up marine rescue calls

Horry County Fire Rescue went through a series of rescue drills Thursday to learn how to react faster to emergencies on the water.

"We are working on decreasing the response time out in the marine environment from the commercial vessels to the public safety side of it," said Horry County Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Dan Shankle.

Little River Station 2 has recently implemented a 'Marine Communication Center' that will make communication clearer than it has ever been.

"Once we are dispatched, or once we get the distress call through the radio, one person will stay here and maintain communication so there's nothing lost when there is a transfer of personnel from the firehouse, to the dock, to the boat," said Horry County Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Justin Gibbons.

The station has been using the new center in the Little River area for the past month, and Gibbons says it's already proven to be an essential communication tool.

"We were actually able to intercept a distress call for an injured person on a boat. So, that actually decreased our response time. The crews here had information there was an injury prior to a 911 call ever being made," Gibbons said.

Horry County responded to 50 water emergencies over the past year. The emergencies included fuel leaks and stranded boats.

Boating accidents are most common in the area, according to Gibbons. He says many of them involve people operating jet-skis.

Gibbons says it's important to practice safe boating procedures including always wearing a life jacket and taking a boater safety course offered by the Department of Natural Resources.