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What We Say

L’Observateur / September 2, 1998

Potential for disaster is all around us in the River Parishes, and the area is almost a textbook for disaster planners, as nearly everything which could happen, could happen here.

Look around you and the possibilities seem endless. Of course, there arethe weather-related disasters, such as hurricanes, tornados and floods.

The industrial corridor, which is one of the greatest concentration of petro-chemical plants in the world, spawns its own host of potential for disaster. Pipelines could leak or burst. Truck and train accidents are all-too-common. Hazardous materials training, therefore, is a natural part ofmany volunteer firefighters’ training.

Special training for our emergency operations, along with special equipment, have been acquired because of the Waterford 3 nuclear power plant, as required by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Historically, there’s even been an earthquake here, which opened a crack in the ground at Laura Plantation in St. James Parish. There’s even a theorythat the Gulf of Mexico itself was formed by the impact of an asteroid, also killing off Earth’s dinosaurs. So far, no volcanos.This week, all attention is being paid to the tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico, slowly creeping toward the Louisiana and Mississippi Gulf Coasts.

Our emergency preparedness departments have state-of-the-art tracking equipment and experienced, cool heads to make the necessary decisions.

Our volunteer organizations, from the fire departments to the Red Cross, all stand ready to assist any victims from disaster. Evacuation plans arein place and shelters for those who have to leave have already been made ready, if needed.

We, as human beings, are limited to what we can do to make ready for unexpected disaster. We cannot cover every eventuality. No amount ofmoney can take care in advance of everything which could happen. Noamount of criticism will change what happened.

All we can do is handle what does happen and, afterward, pick up the pieces and carry on. What else we can do is not panic. Make stormpreparations quickly and efficiently, including fueling up vehicles. Listenfor up-to-date weather information. Listen to our government officials,who are armed with the latest, most accurate information and, should the worst happen, support their efforts to rebuild and restore our communities.

We must all be honest with ourselves. Most of us live in the RiverParishes, aware of what could happen in this area. A toxic release from atrain or truck accident could be devastating to a nearby subdivision. Apipeline release could do likewise, with the (yes) hundreds of miles of pipelines in the River Parishes alone.

An airplane disaster, such as what struck Kenner in 1982 when a jet taking off struck a wind shear and pancaked into a nearby residential area, is always a possibility.

However, we stay and raise our families and send our children to school here, not dwelling on doom and gloom but holding optimism in our future and the coming generations.

With such optimism, we should hold our heads high, face whatever happens with a brave heart and stand ready to help our neighbors should disaster strike.

Leonard Gray is a reporter for L’Observateur.

Copyright © 1998, Wick Communications, Inc.

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