St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office prepares for 2017 hurricane season

Members of the St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office SWAT team pull Lt. Stephen Ingargiola to safety during a recent training exercise on water rescues.

With the beginning of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, Southeast Louisiana residents should begin making plans so they can be prepared if a storm threatens our area.

Preparing for hurricane season, which runs through Nov. 30, should be something residents in our area are accustomed to doing, St. Bernard Sheriff James Pohlmann said.

“We should always be mindful of being prepared for hurricane season,’’ Sheriff Pohlmann said. “Remember, we are so close to the Gulf of Mexico, you can’t ignore the possibility of a hurricane.”

With that in mind, Sheriff Pohlmann said, the St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office is ready to respond in case there is a storm threatening our area and possibly forcing the evacuation of the parish.

The department has a plan in place, which Sheriff Pohlmann said includes several boats at the ready, and a high-water truck that would be ideal for rescue or to haul personnel or equipment to respond to a storm.

Acquired through a federal grant in 2013, the Sheriff’s Office’s custom-built F-650 truck, which has a 37-inch lift and air brakes, is an important asset for hurricane season.

“It’s meant for high-water situations,’’ such as street flooding from heavy rains, the Sheriff said.

There also are thousands of sandbags already made by prisoners for use by residents, businesses and parish government. Plans also are in place in the event prisoners would need to be evacuated, Sheriff Pohlmann said.

In addition to equipment, Sheriff Pohlmann said various departments within the Sheriff’s Office have plans in place and are ready to execute them if need be.

For instance, members of the Sheriff’s Office SWAT team train on various types of boats from the sheriff’s Marine Division in order to be prepared to immediately patrol neighborhoods in case of any type of rain event flooding.

“If parish government orders an evacuation of residents in any approaching storm we will facilitate that and then lock down the parish to prevent non-residents from entering,’’ Sheriff Pohlmann said.

To be successful in preparing for a storm, Sheriff Pohlmann said residents need to do their part as well.

“That’s true for every family in this parish,’’ the Sheriff said. “Don’t wait until you hear a bad storm is approaching before you think about being prepared, such as whether or not you will leave and where you would go, if necessary.’’

By preparing now, Sheriff Pohlmann said, you can avoid the rush at home supply stores and supermarkets, which always get crowded and run out of things as hurricanes or tropical storms approach.

“Don’t wait until the last minute,” the Sheriff said. “Have things like flashlights and batteries, bottled water, and medications on hand where you can easily find them if leaving becomes necessary.”

If you can afford it, Sheriff Pohlmann recommends stocking up on these items in the event you chose to stay during a storm and lose electricity for more than a day.

Anticipating the needs of older relatives and deciding what to do with pets if you had to leave, also are things to consider. The Louisiana ASPCA says pet-owners should never leave them behind when they evacuate because the animals would be at the mercy of the storm.

In the event of an ordered evacuation, Sheriff Pohlmann said officers will make extra patrols through neighborhoods, as well as by boat along waterways if necessary, to protect property in the parish.

“We don’t want residents making a bad decision to stay simply out of concern over a possible burglar,’’ Sheriff Pohlmann said.

Residents are encouraged to heed the advice of local officials when it comes to deciding to evacuate or ride out a storm.

“It reduces the need for search and rescue operations if there was actual flooding in a storm,” the Sheriff said, “and it reduces the possibility of the loss of life.”

Another way citizens can prepare for hurricane season is to stay informed.

Residents can register for the parish’s FirstCall Emergency Notification Service which provides timely information about hurricanes and other high profile events occurring in the area. These alerts will go to landlines, cell phones, SMS text messaging devices, email and pagers. For more information, or to register, visit St. Bernard Parish Government’s web site, sbpg.net.

St. Bernard Parish residents with special needs or those who have no resources to evacuate themselves are eligible for assistance in evacuating should a mandatory evacuation be called in the parish, either due to a hurricane or another type of emergency which might arise.

Residents can register with the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness by calling (504) 278-4268. Information also is available at sbpg.net. Click on Departments, then Homeland Security, then Special Needs Registration.

In the event of an approaching storm, here is a checklist of items you will want to have on hand in a basic emergency supply kit:

  • Water: one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days

  • Three-day supply of non-perishable food

  • Can opener

  • Eating utensils

  • First Aid kit

  • Cash

  • Several complete changes of clothing and footwear per person

  • Cell phones and chargers

  • Bedding or sleeping bags

  • Fire extinguisher (small canister ABC type)

  • Bleach (no lemon or other additives)

  • Mosquito repellent

  • Tarp, rope, and duct tape

  • Toiletries including toilet paper

  • Battery-operated radio and extra batteries

  • Flashlights and extra batteries

  • Sunglasses

For families with infants, remember bottles, formula, diapers, wipes, powdered milk and medications.

For adults and others with special needs, don’t forget medicine, such as heart and high blood pressure medication, insulin, prescription drugs, denture needs, contact lenses and supplies and extra eye glasses.

For pets, bring their ID tag, a photo of pet for identification purposes, a week supply of food, water, medications, and your veterinarian’s phone number. Don’t leave your pet behind. Transport pets in secure pet carriers and keep pets on leashes. Most emergency shelters do not admit pets. Check with hotels in safe locations and ask if you can bring your pet.

Entertainment, especially for children, is important as well. Pack books for adult readers and for children, board games and/or other games that do not require batteries or electricity.

Also, remember to bring your important records in a waterproof, portable container. Include insurance papers or account numbers, an inventory of household goods,  checks and credit cards, family records such as birth, marriage and death certificates, and important telephone numbers.

Taking photos of your home and its contents before you leave is also a good idea for insurance purposes.

Sheriff Pohlmann hopes this season will be a quiet one for St. Bernard Parish, but it’s best to keep a watchful eye and think smart.

“Let’s hope for the best, and prepare for the worst,” the Sheriff said.

Capt. Brian Clark, a retired state Wildlife and Fisheries agent who heads the St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office Marine Division, left, speaks with members of the Sheriff’s Office SWAT team during a hurricane preparedness training exercise.

The St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office Marine Division and SWAT team test boating equipment during a recent training exercise on Bayou Bienvenue.

Members of the St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office Marine Division and SWAT team recently participated in a various training exercises.

St. Bernard Sheriff James Pohlmann, left, with Capt. Brian Clark, head of the St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office Marine Division, during a recent training exercise on Bayou Bienvenue.

St. Bernard Sheriff James Pohlmann, right, observes Sgt. Shane Lulei, left, of the St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office Marine Division, as he throws a life preserver to Lt. Stephen Ingargiola, pretending to be a person in need of rescue during a recent training exercise on Bayou Bienvenue.

Members of St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office Marine Division and SWAT team during a recent training exercise in Bayou Bienvenue.

Members of the St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office Marine Division and SWAT team recently participated in a training exercise and testing of equipment in preparation of hurricane season.

Capt. Ronnie Martin gives a thumbs up during a recent training exercise and testing of equipment on Bayou Bienvenue in preparation of hurricane season.

Members of the St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office SWAT team listen intently as Capt. Brian Clark, a retired state Wildlife and Fisheries agent who heads the St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office Marine Division, speaks to them about airboat safety in the event of a water rescue event.