The Crawley Borough Emergency Centre is located in the basement of the Town Hall extension which was under construction in 1979 with the aid of a Home Office grant. The bunker, at the bottom of a flight of steps, is accessed through a heavy steel and concrete blast door straight into the decontamination room. The main feature of this room is a huge communal tiled shower sufficient for at least 8 people at one time.
Opposite the shower a wooden door leads into the standby generator room. The generator with its adjacent switch gear is in excellent condition with only a few hours on the clock; it is regularly tested. The room is described on the official plan as an ‘airlock’ but the door into the short spine corridor is wooden and definitely not gas tight. To the left were the dormitory, toilets, kitchen, controllers room and rest room. The controller or ‘co-coordinator’ as it says on the door moved to a new office in the Town Hall in the summer of 2001 although all his wooden furniture is still in place. The former dormitory and rest room (more recently used as a briefing room) have been stripped and are currently being used for storage of ballot boxes and other election paraphernalia. The unisex flushing toilets are intact as is the functional kitchen with a large number of white kitchen cabinets and the usual array of kitchen equipment. With the exception of the kitchen and toilet, all the rooms in this part of the bunker are to be completely stripped and emptied and will be used for the storage of surplus furniture etc.
At the far end of the corridor is the working end of the bunker which will be retained as the Borough Emergency Centre. Regular exercises are held there and although the emergency planning team only consists of one person, the EPO, he can call on around ten council and liaison staff to man the bunker in the event of an emergency.
The corridor gives access directly into the control room which has the usual array of tables, chairs, audio visual equipment and local wall maps and charts. Three rooms are accessed from the control room. The communications room is lined with acoustic booths along each wall. The council have recently installed a new radio system to replace the unreliable network of CB radios that had previously been used. The South Sussex RAYNET Group and West Sussex County RAYNET provide full coverage of West Sussex, including the Crawley and Gatwick area. The equipment was provided by the Crawley Amateur Radio Club. In times of extreme need RAYNET may choose to bolster personal by use of radio operators from outside of the core membership, these may be drawn from local radio clubs as well as other sources
The second room is the liaison room (formerly scientific advisors room) which is sparsely furnished and the final room is the ventilation plant room with it’s modern plant in good order and in use; the SX50 Emergency Communications Network unit also stands in this room. A small blast door in one wall was the emergency exit. This consisted of a horizontal tube leading to a vertical ladder up to the car park. The horizontal tube acted as a gathering point for water which used to flood into the bunker if the escape door was opened. As an emergency exit is no longer required the fire brigade was asked to pump out the tube which has now been filled with concrete.
Those taking part in the visit were Nick Catford, Keith Ward and Bob Jenner.