La. responders get radios to address Katrina issues


The Advocate

LIVINGSTON, La. — Livingston Parish has distributed 234 hand-held radios to various emergency agencies to make sure they can talk to each other during hurricanes and other disasters, officials said Monday.

The radios should prevent the kinds of communications problems that occurred in some parts of the state after Hurricane Katrina, said Mark Benton, executive director of the parish's Office of Emergency Preparedness.

Radios have been programmed and given to all of the law enforcement agencies, fire departments and other agencies that need to respond to emergencies, he said.

In addition to numerous parish agencies being able to talk to each other, the radios make it possible for local agencies to communicate with agencies from other parishes and emergency responders from other states, Benton said.

Another big advantage is that the radios aren't dependent on local towers, Denham Springs Police Chief Scott Jones said.

A tower can go out "and we still can talk to each other," he said.

The radios work on a chain of towers, so a lot of towers would have to go out for them to become inoperable, said Ronnie Cotton, who heads the parish's 911 center.

"It will give us another coin in our pocket when we try to start fighting one of these hurricanes." Cotton said.

The parish has 64 additional radios that will be distributed within the "next couple of weeks as soon as they are programmed," Benton said.

The programming is different for different agencies, he said.

Some channels are common to all of the emergency agencies and some are specific to law enforcement agencies, Benton said.

The parish purchased the radios at a cost of $704,000 with funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the OEP director said.

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