St. John administrators to present update emergency plan

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 7, 2009


LAPLACE — St. John administrative officials will present the parish’s updated emergency plan and seek authorization for a point-to-point hurricane evacuation shelter for parish residents at Tuesday’s parish council meeting in LaPlace.

St. John Parish President Bill Hubbard said administrators, council members and department heads have spent the last four months creating a step-by-step plan of operations the parish will implement in emergency situations. He said administrators wanted a plan that was written in language anyone could understand.

“The plan is very ‘user friendly,’ and it covers a lot of common sense circumstances that the old plan just didn’t address,” Hubbard said. “We learned a lot of lessons during hurricanes Gustav and Ike, and we needed to get that knowledge down on paper.”

St. John Public Information Officer Buddy Boe said the 2009 emergency plan “revives” an old plan that had not seen a revision since before Hurricane Katrina. It includes four distinct changes in addition to a multitude of minor updates and revisions.

“We have laid out procedures for generator maintenance, established specific locations for point-of-distribution stations and created agreements with Entergy for them to use the St. John Community Center as a base for equipment storage and a camp for employees,” Boe said. “There is also specific procedures for transporting residents out of the parish during an evacuation order.”

Boe said Hurricane Gustav marked the first time parish leaders were forced to evacuate residents out of the parish, and administrators were making decisions on the fly. He said the new plan sets a policy for school bus use and designates locations for picking up and dropping off residents who need help leaving town.

Pending council approval, Boe said residents being evacuated will have a specific place to go as part of a point-to-point shelter agreement with officials from Oak Grove in north Louisiana.

The shelter has a capacity of 450, but Boe said the administration has a goal of finding space for 1,000 parish residents. He said the parish is looking into an additional agreement with a shelter near Monroe that holds 550 people.

“During Gustav we evacuated over 750 people who couldn’t get out,” Boe said. “We need to be ready to shuttle that many or more out of town the next time we are threatened.”

Other business on the agenda Tuesday includes an announcement of substantial completion of the new St. John Animal Shelter. Boe said the long-awaited shelter should be ready for business sometime next week.

The council meets in LaPlace at the P.D. Hebert Building, located at 1801 W. Airline Highway, starting at 6 p.m.