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'Years of planning': Take a look inside Macon-Bibb's Emergency Operations Center

The center was built as a nuclear fallout shelter in 1964. Now, it fires up during severe weather outbreaks to keep Macon-Bibb informed.

MACON, Ga. — If you've ever driven past the County Government Center in downtown Macon, you might have seen what looks like a regular parking deck for Bibb County's commissioners.

If you go below the blacktop, you'll see there's a lot more to it than that.

"This is years of planning, relationship building, team building," explained Spencer Hawkins, Macon-Bibb County's emergency management director. "It was built in 1964 as a nuclear fallout shelter. We have continued to use it as an emergency operations center, and this is the hub, the nexus where things happen," he said.

Place a call to Macon-Bibb's emergency management office this week, and the bunker is where you'd be connected.

"The sheriff's office and the fire department that help coordinate the on-the-ground response, and we have public works in here to make sure that they identify the roads that need [to be] cleared, and get those assets where they need to be," Hawkins said.

The center has space for several branches of the county government to shelter and call the shots when bad weather strikes. Mayor Lester Miller was there checking out radar maps Wednesday afternoon shortly after declaring a local state of emergency.

"With all the storm damage we've had over the last 24 hours, certainly a lot more than we would anticipate. And we certainly can use the resources that the state has to offer and so far they've been willing to make those promises to us," Miller said.

Hawkins says when calls come into the center, it's a streamlined process.

"Over the last two years we have found that we can do so much online and virtually, but there's nothing like that face-to-face interaction," he said. "Especially in a disaster situation."

Wednesday afternoon, Miller declared a local state of emergency, which helps the county establish a line of communication between GEMA and the state. Miller says it'll provide resources and money to aid cleanup efforts.

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