Celebrate Central: Central Fire Department Is Prepared

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SandbagsBBy Mia Freneaux
Last week’s brush with Tropical Storm Cindy brought back some harrowing memories for many Central residents.   A comforting sight amidst the serious weather predictions was Central Fire Department Chief Bill Porche along with Chief Charles Mondrick and Capt. Steve Branscum, assisting folks filling sand bags at 8:00 last Wednesday evening.  City Services had set up a portable generator to run lights so that people could continue to fill bags after sunset.  The sand piles and bags will remain at their location next to Lancaster House for at least the near future, according to Chief Porche.  Sand bags are also available at the Lovett Road and Monticello stations.  
“I helped then city-services company CH2MHill develop an Emergency Response Plan in 2007.  It is still in place.  We have departmental procedures outlined to handle any emergency,” Chief Porche shared with quiet confidence.  “Any time there is a known weather emergency in the offing we have a preliminary checklist we follow.  We make sure we are prepared with the supplies and staff in place to respond.”  Supplies include items such as chain saws and extra blades, salvage covers to repair roof damage, and other items required to keep Central’s citizens safe.  Vehicles such as rescue boats and All Terrain Vehicles are checked to be sure they are response ready.
“Our staff is trained in downed tree removal and roof repair; it’s part of our firefighter training.  We also have crews who operate our boats that train monthly in rescue techniques, “ stated Chief Porche.   A source of tremendous pride for him is the fact that his boat crews were out rescuing stranded citizens during the August flood while their own homes were flooding.  That is the kind of dedication for which the CFD is known.
Whenever a weather emergency event is imminent, the CFD sets up the Emergency Operations Center at the Sullivan Road Fire Station.  There the Chief, the Mayor, the Chief of Police, and a representative from the EBR Sheriff’s Office all monitor the reports and radar so that plans can be activated.  Dispatch for both the fire department and the Sheriff is routed through the CFD so that efforts can be most efficiently coordinated.
The Chief pointed out that he, Chief Mondrick, and Assistant Chief Eller have all been with the fire department since the 1970’s.  They witnessed the Flood of 1983 and Tropical Storm Allison in 2001.  This experience has truly equipped them to know exactly what a weather emergency will demand of them.  Chief Porche recommends that citizens stay informed in extreme weather situations by keeping an eye on the radar.  This shows what is really happening in the area.  Also keep in mind past events.  Central took on over 30” of rain in 48 hours in August.  6000 homes flooded.  In 1983, 400 homes flooded, some located outside Central though within the CFD’s district.  This last Saturday, the rain gauge at the CFD registered 3.98” of rainfall.  Keeping perspective like this helps folks respond rationally in the face of an emergency.
The fire department is eagerly looking forward to the completion of the Flood Inundation Mapping Program by the U.S. Geological Survey next year.  “It will be a great diagnostic tool for us,” Chief stated, “we will be able to plot where potential evacuations will be needed and where roads may become inaccessible.”  This program will also enable citizens to log in on their computers, locate their homes on an interactive map, and see what water levels they may receive.  
Chief Porche had these words of advice with the 2017 Hurricane Season upon us:  “Stay in place until an emergency situation is called. The fire department will be dealing with wind primarily, as well as higher rainfall levels.  We will be evaluating the weather conditions and responding accordingly.  Unfortunately, we cannot respond in wind conditions that pose danger to our staff.  Check our website (centralfd.org) for hurricane preparedness information.   And remember, the Central Fire Department is here, and we are prepared.”