Disaster drill in St. Charles Parish

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 17, 2012

By robin shannon


HAHNVILLE – St. Charles Parish Officials will be testing the abilities of first responders and volunteers to distribute supplies in the aftermath of a disaster in a drill next month, and residents are being asked to participate.

The parish is looking for residents to drive through a point-of-distribution demonstration pretending to receive ice, food, water and other supplies so parish employees can get a chance to practice for a real disaster scenario.

The demonstration will be held April 13 at the West Bank Bridge Park starting at 8:30 a.m., said parish spokesperson Renee Simpson. The drill is expected to last about two hours.

“One of the biggest challenges in disaster recovery is ensuring residents have the supplies they need to get back on their feet,” Simpson said. “This will give us a good idea of where we are when it comes to distribution of those supplies.”

Simpson explained that “Points of Distribution” are centralized locations where residents can pick up life-sustaining commodities following a disaster or emergency. Workers needed to run such a site include traffic controllers, community relations personnel, equipment operators, loaders and security. The distribution point is typically staged in an area 150 feet by 300 feet and requires a staff of 19 per day and four per night.

The parish last operated a point of distribution for real in the aftermath of Hurricane Gustav in 2008. There were also distribution sites set up at the Jerusalem Temple parking lot in Destrehan, as well as the Bridge Park, in 2005 during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

“This exercise is valuable to the St. Charles Parish Emergency Operations Center as an organization because it will allow us to correct any issues that may decrease the efficiency of such an operation,” said Emergency Preparedness Director Scott Whelchel.

“The exercise will pull in personnel from various agencies and departments, including St. Charles Parish Public Works, Parks and Recreation, St. Charles Parish Schools and more.”

Participants will receive a Red Cross ‘Emergency Go Kit’ containing information on emergency preparedness and other items from parish government.