By Christine Bordelon, Clarion Herald
The Louisiana Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (@gohsep on Facebook) has a helpful website – gohsep.la.gov – that gives needed information on how to prepare for a hurricane, rainstorm or disaster.
Mike Steele, communications director for gohsep, said the website has a downloadable Louisiana Emergency Preparedness Guide that features a two-page checklist for emergency supplies, as well as evacuation zones and contraflow routes and an “I Am Safe” tab to fill in before you evacuate to let loved ones know your final evacuation location.
The state also has a getagameplan app that can be downloaded for up-to-date information such as shelter locations during an evacuation. There is also another app – ALERT FM – that the state uses for emergency alerts to its residents “in the event of a public emergency.”
Steele said the state recommends planning now for hurricanes. Don’t wait until the last minute to decide about what you need, if you are evacuating or where you are going, he said.
The state plans evacuations in three phases. Those areas closest to the Gulf of Mexico are first; those areas a little farther inland are in phase two; and the New Orleans metropolitan area is evacuated third.
“If we have a full evacuation, the goal is to get everybody as far away from the coast as possible,” he said. “You have all of the people along the coast out of the way first before you evacuate New Orleans.”
If people adhere to this zoned plan, then contraflow – which is ordered by the governor after consulting with local parish governments and emergency preparedness officials – is not enacted, he said. Steele compared contraflow to a “Hail Mary” pass – the last push to get everyone out to safety. “We hope we never have to use contraflow,” he said. “There is no need for contraflow if people evacuate in phases.”
With its border on the Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana’s geography makes evacuations trickier, since residents have to go farther away for safety, Steele said.
“You have to get people a couple of hours away from the coast to get out of harm’s way,” he said. Because of this, there are no pre-determined evacuation routes “until we know where a storm is going.” The same holds true for shelters: They are not established until the path of the hurricane is clear.
Christine Bordelon can be reached at email@example.com.
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