NOLA emergency planners ready for hurricane season - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

NOLA emergency planners ready for hurricane season

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -

Even though it was the start of the Memorial Day weekend, city first responders and emergency planners were already looking ahead to the start of hurricane season on June 1.

"We're just exercising some of our capabilities, some of the equipment that we use, some of the technology platforms that we use and you know just kind of shaking all the kinks out of things,” said Aaron Miller, Deputy Director of the City's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

Radio communications did not live up to expectations during Hurricane Katrina, but systems have been improved first responders said Friday.

"The ability for police, fire and EMS is much greater to be able to communicate among the agencies here in the city, but then also the radio has the ability if mutual aide comes in from around the country we have a system where those radios can be integrated and we can all talk,” said New Orleans Fire Department Superintendent Tim McConnell.

Chief McConnell said the system would have to be activated to allow the additional communications with agency personnel from outside New Orleans.

“So on the communications side, I feel pretty good that we're, we're eons ahead of where we were back then,” he said.

The 2015 Atlantic Hurricane season starts as the New Orleans Police Depart is low on rank and file officers, but the police chief said that will not affect their hurricane readiness.

"I don't think that's going to be a problem, we have recruits that we can use, we have people who are hired and are not yet recruits who are who we call aides that can help,” Supt. Michael Harrison said.

He said all officers will be deployed to provide security and traffic control.

"To provide anti-looting patrols, critical infrastructure security, to make sure we deal with contra-flow,” Harrison said.

And unlike during Hurricane Katrina's approach to the city, the Superdome will not be utilized as a shelter of last resort.

"The city does not have any plans for shelters of last resort,” Miller said.

But the city will run buses to get people who cannot leave town on their own during an evacuation order to staged areas where they will then be transported to state-run shelters.

Commercial planes will also be available to get people out of harm's away.

The head of the city's EMS services said they will be fully staffed, but warns that weather conditions could make it difficult to reach people who failed to evacuate.

"We'll respond as long as possible, but at some point in some really severe storms, it's physically impossible to get rescuers out into the storm,” said Jeffrey Elder, M.D., Director of Emergency Medical Services for the city.

The New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board said all of its systems are working properly.

Agencies that would be required to operate in the thick of a storm all have plans to move their personnel and equipment to higher ground.

And nearly 10 years after Katrina devastated the city Chief McConnell says all fire stations in the city have generators.

“We have two brand new stations, that are very resilient, their electrical [system] is elevated, they have generators put in them, those are stronger facilities than we've had in the past,” he said.

The new fire station in the lower 9th ward is an example.

To be sure, Katrina was more than a teaching moment for the city of New Orleans.

"We remember what that was like and their many lessons learned,” Harrison, who was in a significant capacity with the police department in 2005, said.

Residents who know they will have difficulty evacuating or those with medical related special needs should register with the city's “311” system.

And for information on how to prepare as an individual to evacuate go to http://www.nola.gov/ready.

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