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California Technology Specialists Assist in Isaac Recovery Efforts

by on September 4, 2012

A look inside Local Assistance Centers being established in New Orleans after the area was flooded by Tropical Storm Isaac.

As part of the national recovery effort to assist in the wake of Tropical Storm Isaac, the California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA) deployed three specially trained team members to Local Assistance Centers (LACs) established by FEMA. These team members will be establishing network stability for a brand new web-based financial assistance program launching in New Orleans.

Along coastal Louisiana, nine assistance centers have been established in different parishes. Between just two locations, where the California staff is located, officials are anticipating as many as 90,000 visitors at each site by next Tuesday. That’s more than 25,000 people per day or about 2,000 people per hour moving through the doors.

“We are testing all the wireless networks and laying down lots of cable for Internet connections,” said Chris Raynes, an information system analyst for Cal EMA, via phone. “Things are going very well with the setup and tomorrow will be the big test.”

On Wednesday September 5, the centers will be open to the public. The LACs will be using a new automated web-based software to assist visitors with the approval process for funding and obtaining emergency Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards. To use this system, visitors will have access to about 200 laptops in each of the centers.

“This system allows for those who were effected by the storm and flood conditions to have available cash in hand until further assistance is available,” said Mark Johnson, Cal EMA’s Planning Branch Chief. “This new system makes the recovery process more efficient and brings resources to individuals faster than before.”

The State of Louisiana requested 40 IT and telecommunications technicians from across the nation. Staff from Cal EMA included highly trained information technology technicians to assistance in maintaining the computer networks, routers, mobile satellite systems and other IT and telecommunications systems and gear.

Earlier this morning team members were briefed in Baton Rogue before heading into the heavily weather-impacted New Orleans.

“The system we are setting up is for the people here that really need the assistance,” said Dominick Pedicino, a system software specialist for Cal EMA, via phone from New Orleans.

Through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) a disaster impacted state is able to request and receive assistance from any of the 50 states. The initial request came over the weekend from Louisiana Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. The three Cal EMA staff members, as well as one IT specialist from the California Department of General Services, landed in Baton Rogue late on Labor Day.

For people in the Gulf Coast region seeking individual assistance, they can register online or apply for assistance at http://www.disasterassistance.gov or via smart phone at m.fema.gov. They can also call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 for the hearing and speech impaired. The phone lines are open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (CDT).

Related Links:

Cal EMA

Louisiana Governor’s Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness

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