Parish to use Phoenix system to track evacuees

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 14, 2010



LAPLACE – In the event of an emergency requiring a mass evacuation of residents to shelter, St. John the Baptist Parish officials will have the benefit of an electronic database to keep tabs on where residents are sent.

The parish is one of several in south Louisiana that will be employing the Phoenix Emergency Management System to register hurricane evacuees before sending them off to shelters further north.

“The system is tied into driver’s licenses or state-issued IDs,” said St. John Chief Administrative Officer Marie Brown-Mercadel. “The resident fills out a form that goes to the parish, the state and the shelter site, and that information is linked to an arm band that is distributed at a meet up point for bus transportation out of town.”

Mercadel explained the registering process is completely Internet based. Residents are entered on-site at the parish’s point of evacuation, which in this case is East St. John Elementary School. She also said people who need rides from the west bank communities will meet at the St. John Parish Courthouse in Edgard, where they will be bused to the east bank point.

“When residents get to the evacuation location they will be screened and registered onsite by state and local Health and Human Services representatives,” Mercadel said. “Our parish Department of Health and Human Services received training on the data entry process last month through a mock exercise with members of the state department. Our training is set to continue sometime in the next few weeks.”

According to the Phoenix website, the system allows residents to be entered and tracked through a driver’s license or personal state ID card. The ID card links all applicable information about evacuee: where they are going, whom they are with, or what bus they are riding on.

“The system also allows us to link residents with their luggage and their pets,” Mercadel said.

Mercadel said during Gustav and Ike there were numerous problems with registering pets traveling with evacuees. She said some went to the wrong shelter and others were temporarily lost in the system.

Mercadel said the Phoenix system is set up for all residents, but any residents with special needs will also get registered with the state Office of Health and Human Services, which is setting up a triage location somewhere in the state. Mercadel said it is likely the location will be the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge.

Parish President Natalie Robottom said the parish has established point-to-point shelter agreements with officials in Monroe and Oak Grove in West Carroll Parish. She said an agreement is in place with the St. John Parish School Board to use school buses to take residents out of town.

Robottom said there are 60 buses available for use, and school system bus drivers have agreed to volunteer their services in the event of a declared emergency. But she said the parish also has requested additional National Guardsmen in case more drivers are needed. 

“The parish does not pay to use the school buses,” she said. “However, the school system may seek reimbursement from FEMA for use of their buses in a declared emergency.”