Ascension first in state with oxygen trailer

Wade McIntyre
Ascension Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Director Richard Webre, right, shows off the department’s new oxygen supply trailer Friday at the OHSOP in Gonzales. Looking on at left is Dr. Bernard Brock, a pulmonary specialist at St. Elizabeth Hospital.

Ascension Parish officials Friday rolled out a new vehicle to assist residents dependent upon a steady supply of oxygen during times of emergency.

The $55,799 oxygen supply trailer can be deployed anywhere in the parish during power outages, providing those who need oxygen for health reasons a means to refill their tanks.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Gustav when much of the parish was without electricity for days, the need for the unit was apparent.

“This is going to fill that gap,” parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Director Richard Webre said, standing before the 16-foot long and 8-foot wide trailer that runs off either electricity or its own self-contained generator.

The trailer holds ten oxygen storage cylinders and can fill anywhere from 250 to 300 personal oxygen tanks at a time. Crystal Moran of the OHSEP office said ten additional cylinders will be kept on hand for replacements as needed.

Moran was part of the award-winning Ascension Parish Chamber of Commerce Leadership Ascension team that zeroed in on the need identified by OHSEP and came up the idea for the trailer as its project.

A grant was secured from the 2008 Urban Area Security Initiative to fund the trailer.

The unit is the first of its kind to be operated by a parish in Louisiana, Parish President Tommy Martinez said.

The trailer was built by Hypres Equipment Company in Oklahoma City, and is similar to a unit owned and operated by the state of Louisiana.

He called the acquisition of the trailer “exciting,” and said it would serve parish citizens in any type of emergency.

In the Gustav aftermath, firefighters took oxygen to residents in need. With the oxygen trailer available, the firefighters will be freed up for more critical and demanding duties.

The unit also has the potential to reduce demand on area hospitals during emergencies by making it easy for those in need to refill their tanks.

“This system is a godsend,” said pulmonary specialist Dr. Bernard Brock of St. Elizabeth Hospital. “This is a unit that will take the pressure off doctors and patients.”

To participate in the free oxygen refilling program, residents need to bring their own personal oxygen tanks to the trailer and fill out a short questionnaire. They can then have their tanks refilled at no charge. The parish does not  supply personal oxygen tanks.

For more information, residents should contact the Ascension Parish OHSEP at 225-621-8360.