Each time a hurricane nears the parish, the Office of Emergency Preparedness (OEP) has extended an invitation for me to witness first-hand what happens during a hurricane at the 9-1-1 and sheriff’s office. I usually have family home for the storm, but this time I was alone so I accepted the offer.
And I got to witness the work performed before, during and after the storm by our leaders and even volunteers. The work can only be described as outstanding, because as these guys realized some of their needs were not being met by the state right-a-way, they had to create alternate plans. When generators begin failing locally, leaders like Bob Manuel, Ted Demoruelle, Liz Hill and others, found ways to either make the generators optional or ways to move those in dire need like our hospital patients. There is no way I can describe every single task our leaders had to perform, but even though, we as the public, lose our patience with them, they did a great job from the trenches of Hurricane Gustav.
I offered my services to Liz Hill in answering phones because I was waiting for the storm to pass, witnessing what was occurring, and of course, had lots of time on my hands. The phones at the OEP office didn’t stop as leaders attempted to find ways through their issues and solve the problems of this parish. Municipal leaders, congressional leaders, parish leaders and law enforcement had several issues to deal with if one is aware of what happened in the aftermath of this storm. If not, here’s a quick recap.
•Ville Platte lost electrical power and its wells went down. The hospital (Ville Platte Medical Center) also lost power when its generator failed.
By the way, Stephanie Stromer, director of marketing and public relations for Ville Platte Medical Center said the emergency room remained open for emergencies after this incident and first aid was given throughout the storm. She said the hospital was back in full service by Friday. In addition to new patients, the majority of those patients who were transported to Our Lady of Lourdes and Acadian Medical Center during the storm returned to VPMC. The problem occurred when the emergency back-up generators were damaged in the storm and could not be used at that time. They are now fully functional and ready once again for the next event. “We are required to perform disaster drills throughout the year to prepare us for events such as this, be they internal or external. We were prepared and back up and running by Tuesday afternoon.”
•Savoy Medical Center (SMC) reported damage to its roof.
In a press release, SMC reported it is now open and fully functioning following three days of hurricane repair and cleanup. “Our emergency department continued to provide care for the community throughout the storm and in the days after,” said Cris Rivera, Savoy Medical Center chief executive officer. “Immediately after the storm, we began cleaning the areas affected by wind and rain.”
The hospital radiology department, surgery, ICU and patient care areas are ready for use as are the catheterization lab, labor and delivery and postpartum suites.
“I’m very pleased and proud to report that our medical staff, employees and the Region 4 support was exceptional,” Rivera said. “Everyone came together and did what was needed to make sure our patients were taken care of.”
Patients began returning to SMC this week. The psychiatric unit began accepting patients Monday, Sept. 8. “All of our medical services are ready for use,” Rivera said. “We appreciate the community’s patience following the hurricane and we look forward to being their first choice for healthcare now and in the future. As always, it’s our family healing yours.”
•Turkey Creek began having sewage problems and asked for a generator.
•A family in Easton called during the storm to report a gas line had burst and oil and gas were being sprayed over their home. Ward Four responded.
No one wanted to hear tornadoes were being spotted in Evangeline Parish. However, bravo to our troopers and sheriff’s deputies, who risked their lives and made their way to the affected areas of the parish.
Each time Hill received a call to report to some location in the parish, she allowed The Gazette to accompany her. It was a rare media treat to watch all of these things unfold from behind the scenes.
I also have to thank all of our local officials like Mayor Bill Jeanmard, Chief Neal Lartigue, Chief Ted Demoruelle and others around the parish for answering our calls and keeping us informed.
Residents should also know our 9-1-1 communication officers were great. They pitched in where needed; like when Ville Platte Police Department’s phones went down, they began dispatching for the police department. They slept at the 9-11 office so they could be ready to assist whenever they were called upon.
On another note, this office has received lots of calls about food stamps. We did reach someone at the state level who explained those who receive food stamps received a 20 percent increase in their August benefits before the hurricane made landfall. In September, those food stamp recipients will begin receiving the maximum amount allowed by the program. She said some of those uploads began Wednesday, September 10, so card holders should check their cards. If someone already receives the maximum amount, they will only receive that amount. In October, the program will return to its normal mode.
If you have questions, she said you should contact the state or local office. She said remember the local offices have skeleton crews because they are working the food stamp disaster program, which will last for seven days from its kickoff date on Tuesday, September 9. Because of the workload, she said they have asked for seven more days, but at press time, they did not know if the program would be extended.