Parish Homeland Security ready for emergencies

Michael Tortorich
Ascension Parish Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness director Rick Webre, operations section chief Crystal Moran and planning section chief Marian Johnson-Miles stand next to their equipment at the Gonzales office.

Rick Webre keeps his office neat and organized.

As Ascension Parish Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness director, keeping organized and being ready is a priority.

Webre heads the office located at 828 S. Irma Blvd. building 3, Gonzales.

The emergency operations center trains twice each month, Webre said.

The training gets more detailed and specific on how to coordinate externally with state and federal partners, he added.

Webre said the department will begin a public outreach campaign within the next few weeks by putting out information for the upcoming hurricane season, which begins June 1.

Parish residents can get organized and get a game plan now, in the event of an emergency, with the help of the office.

One way is to utilize FirstCall. The stystem allows the parish to share information directly with the public through phones, cell phones, PDAs, pagers and e-mail during emergencies.

Residents can register through the parish’s Web site,

Especially people with special medical needs would benefit from registering, Webre said. By developing a registry, the department can locate where people in need are located.

There is also a community information number set up at 1-866-380-2303.

Weber said residents can use the number to find out information on sandbags, flooding, school closures and more. All of the emergency information is centrally located.

When the area went “off the grid for two weeks” during Hurricane Gustav last year, radio was a useful in getting out information since many had no television or electricity, he said.

While the area sustained plenty of wind damage, he said flooding could have been worse.

Webre said his department has learned from the hurricane and has continued to improve.

The department added a warehouse for storage of supplies in Donaldsonville and two shelter trailers for both the east and west banks of the parish.

Funds have come through grants from Homeland Security programs and the Urban Areas Security Initiative.

Webre credited Ascension Parish president Tommy Martinez for requesting an action review in all parish departments as a way to work on solutions to enhance response capabilities.

In another recent development, Webre has been selected as the regional director for the Homeland Security Directors of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Region II this year.

The region consists of Ascension, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Iberville, Livingston, Point Coupee, West Baton Rouge and West Feliciana parishes.

Webre will represent the region among the nine Homeland Security regions within the state.

Webre is a member of the Louisiana Emergency Preparedness Association, the International Association of Emergency Managers, and has recently received credentials as an Emergency Management Accreditation Program assessor.