Tornado safety, response tips available

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, July 13, 2016

LAPLACE — It didn’t take minutes; it took seconds.

LaPlace felt the devastating impact of an F1 tornado Feb. 23, when strong winds and fierce weather damaged or destroyed more than 300 homes and 50 businesses.

Winds exceeded 130 mph.

Emergency responders, parish workers, law enforcement and concerned neighbors reacted so well that St. John the Baptist Parish suffered very little with injuries while sustaining zero fatalities.

Many people felt St. John the Baptist Parish got lucky. The Governor’s Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) wants local responders to be ready when the next tornado strikes by sponsoring a free Tornado Awareness class from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 25 at the St. John the Baptist Parish Library in LaPlace.

The course helps participants better understand the basics of tornado science, the weather forecasting process and the tornado warning process.

St. John Communications Director Baileigh Rebowe Helm said the training is open to all staff members, adding the Parish’s public safety staff is required to attend.

“Preparedness involves a continuous process of planning, equipping, training and exercising,” Helm said. “Knowledge is power, and the more knowledgeable our residents are on disasters, the better they can protect themselves and their families.”

Participants will receive information on safety measures for themselves, their families and their organizations in preparation for future tornado seasons.

The daylong event is open to the public, but GOHSEP Communications Director Mike Steele said the class is especially beneficial to emergency responders.

Those responders who need official certification for taking the class can get a FEMA Student Identification number by logging onto

Once a FEMA SID number is obtained, attendees can register for the course through the GOHSEP Training page at

Those in the general public that attend do not have to go through that process and do not have to stay for the whole event.

For additional information, call 225-925-3966.

“If someone from the general public wants to come in and learn more, they are welcome to,” Steele said.

“We are hoping to bring a better awareness to anyone who may be interested. If the room gets packed, they are going to have to limit access to the room, itself.

“If it gets to the point that there is a big demand of people wanting to do it, then we will be happy to put another course on to make sure everyone is taken care of.”

Class instructors will be FEMA certified, Steele said.