Short notice drill tests hurricane responders

By Theresa Schmidt - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA. (KPLC) - With Alex in the Gulf, it's a good time to think about how well prepared the community is for a hurricane.

About two hundred community leaders for local, state and federal agencies along with volunteers responded to the call for a short notice drill put on today at the Lake Charles Civic Center.

Officials on hand included Lake Charles Mayor Randy Roach, Police Chief Don Dixon, Calcasieu Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Preps Dick Gremillion.  And there were many others who serve in key roles when it comes to saving lives and getting people who need help transported to a safe place when a hurricane threatens.

Calcasieu OHSEP's Rob Daughdril told members of one group he took on a walk through of the Civic Center, "I don't want anyone showing up on a bus that just has a band but never got registered."  Daughdril says they've come  a long way to assure that relatives will be able to go on the Internet and find out where their relatives are, if they've taken a bus north.

Cathy Michiels, La. Department of Social Services told her group,"If Grandma comes in early and the rest of the family comes in later, we can still link them up." LC Mayor Randy Roach: "Not only is evacuation getting people out, it's also getting people in."

Mayor Randy Roach points out in a real emergency things never go as planned so it's important to be calm and, "You have to be flexible, you have to be ready to adapt. Circumstances are always changing in any type of hurricane situation. The evacuation process is really somewhat uncertain at times. We don't know when the order will be given. We don't know under what circumstances the order will be given. But we know that once it's given, we have to come together as a group and work as a team in order to help make that process actually be very efficient and get people out and get people on those buses and make those things happen."

Calcasieu OHSEP Director Dick Gremillion says the drill is helpful to those who would be managing an evacuation. "It helps to visualize what we're going to be doing. A lot of people said, 'I remember we did this for Hurricane Ike. We did this for Hurricane Gustav.'"

In the same way that emergency officials and volunteers are going through how they're going to respond if there's a disaster, they urge members of the public to do the same thing and review their personal plans. Says Gremillion, "Indications are we're going to be busy this year. So all of these public safety officials and volunteers we have here today are taking this season very seriously and we'd ask the public to do the same."

Local emergency responders here will participate in a more in depth drill in July to test their skills in meeting the needs of the people when a hurricane threatens.

It was a chance to review plans and procedures for community leaders and volunteers and a reminder that all individuals need to make sure they have plans and procedures in place for themselves and their families.

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