Calcasieu OHSEP tackles phone crisis

March 19, 2007
By Theresa Schmidt

Officials from the major police agencies came to the Calcasieu Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness where they worked to coordinate response to emergencies that would normally be handled by telephone.

Lake Charles Fire Chief David Manuel says the  department had to revert back to old fashioned ways of responding. "We had all our fire companies out patrolling the city but also we had to go back to the old time fire watch days that we had people respond by going to the Hibernia Tower, Memorial Hospital, and L'auberge to do fire watch. So the city was pretty well covered."

Emergency responders were able to communicate throughout the crisis because they have two way radios. Troop D State Police Commander Russell Haman says the phone outage posed difficulties responding to accidents. "210 bridge was partially blocked. We had communication problems so we have to get the wreckers up there. Without a phone to call the wreckers we had to send a trooper there to the wrecker to get them up there, so that's one of the issues you face when the communications are down like this. And it wasn't a problem just in Calcasieu. It involved Cameron, Allen, Beauregard, parts of Jeff Davis."

Sheriff Tony Mancuso says they did their best to fan out and be present wherever possible. "We basically doubled our patrol shifts so we had more patrolmen on the streets so in the event we just couldn't get it back fast enough, at least people could see patrolmen and holler, 'Hey I need help!,' flag 'em down.'"

OEP Director Dick Gremillion says emergency responders never lost communication with each other. "We have two way radios that we use, we have systems with redundancies, so we were never in danger of losing radio communications between the agencies."

Gremillion says they'll have what they call an after action review so the agencies can see how to better respond next time. So far emergency officials say they've heard of no loss of life or property resulting from the crisis.

Officials say it's a reminder that families should plan for situations when power or communications go out.