Shelter from the storm

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 16, 2013

By David Vitrano

HAHNVILLE – Although the employees of St. Charles Parish’s Emergency Operations Center hope they never have to test the new facility, at least they know that should disaster strike, they will be able to respond to the crisis not only with some of the latest technology available but also in security and comfort not afforded by the former facility.
St. Charles Parish official, including Parish President V.J. St. Pierre, several council members and Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Director Ron Perry, along with local legislators Rep. Greg Miller and Sen. Gary Smith and representatives from Dow Chemical and the state welcomed the public to the unveiling of the parish’s new EOC, located across River Road from the Hahnville courthouse.
“This project is the culmination of years of hard work,” said Miller. “Government, when done right, can achieve the priorities of the people.”
The new center is built to withstand 200mph winds and boasts room to house first responders and emergency personnel, audio and visual equipment offering real-time assessment, several meeting rooms and a pantry room. It also incorporates some smaller measures to make extended periods spent there more comfortable, such as desks that can adjust to standing height so people are not forced to sit for hours on end.
The 13,000-square-foot- facility cost about $5.8 million, and while much of the money came from the state, FEMA and the parish’s general fund, Dow donated $870,000 for the center’s construction. St. Pierre noted that while he realized the enormity of that sum, “when we made the request, Dow didn’t hesitate.”
Although south Louisiana escaped the 2013 Hurricane Season unscathed, residents here know disaster can strike at any moment.
“Threats to life and property come from many sources,” said St. Pierre, referring to not only the dangers that Mother Nature presents but the dangers presented by local industry, as well.
“When disaster strikes, there are those who need help and those that can help,” said St. Charles Parish Council member Wendy Benedetto. “We now have a first class facility to accomplish this goal.”
The Emergency Oper-ations Center is located at 15026 River Road.
The EOC formerly occupied a cramped, outdated basement space.