Just Imagine: Community Resilience Hubs could fill a void in many areas

Published 8:26 am Monday, May 30, 2022

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in an 11-part series detailing the final 10 catalytic projects of the 50-year Just Imagine resilience plan. All of the projects are based on input from area residents, high school students, business and nonprofit leaders and elected officials. The final three Community Engagement Sessions in which residents can offer their feedback on the projects will be June 6-8.

Shandy Ogea Heil is a certified floodplain manager.

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On the eastern side of Cameron Parish, mass feeding and supply distribution for residents affected by Hurricane Laura took place under a large temporary tent set up at Hackett’s Corner. With much of lower Cameron demolished and the Grand Lake Multipurpose Building and churches severely damaged, a temporary tent on a busy one lane road was the best solution at the time. But what if a permanent solution was available for residents the next time a big storm rolls through?

The Just Imagine SWLA 50-Year Resilience Master Plan identified various communities throughout the region that lack well-constructed, public building space that can serve critical community needs before, during and after weather disasters. Many of these same communities and neighborhoods also lack the building space and infrastructure that promotes community engagement and improved quality of life.  Community Resilience Hubs aim to fill both voids by becoming a constant that can withstand the worst of weather events and provide services like cell phone charging and medicine refrigeration when the power is out in a neighborhood.

In blue-sky days, Community Resilience Hubs provide a gathering space for enrichment activities that improve the quality of life for residents of all ages. From meeting spaces, music venues, and youth summer camps, the structure can serve many purposes. The grounds of Community Resilience Hubs can also be utilized with the installation of playground equipment, splash pads or bike trails.  Gardens, stocked fishing ponds, and outdoor space for pop-up farmer and seafood markets can provide options for communities that are not in proximity of grocery stores or healthy food options. Blue-sky day uses are endless.

Community Resilience Hubs act as a critical facility, meant to continuously operate throughout a disaster to serve critical needs during response and recovery. Built to withstand hurricane force winds and located in areas of low flood risk, a Community Resilience Hub is meant to be a constant and beacon of hope that can withstand the worst of storms. They can provide power and communications when the grid is down and serve as a meal and supply distribution center.  During a hurricane, the interior of the building could be used to evacuate pets or livestock or secure fleet vehicles for local government.

Community Resilience Hubs should be strategically located throughout the region to connect with existing roadways and public buildings. If one public facility or geographic area is compromised during disaster, such as the government complex in Cameron, having a Community Resilience Hub on higher ground and built to withstand hurricane force winds can offer a back-up facility for public works or serve the residents during recovery.

Stevie Trahan, External Relations Manager with Cameron LNG shared how the Hackberry Community Center has already functioned as a Resilience Hub.  This facility was built by Cameron LNG for the residents in Hackberry.  It is an ideal example of a code compliant structure that served the community after Hurricanes Laura and Delta. It is equipped with a built-in generator, RV hookups, ample parking space for food and supply distribution and a robust WiFi system to accommodate a Command Center.  FEMA operated a mobile office from this site after Hurricane Laura.  During non- disaster times the center is used for weddings, parties, training sessions and even funerals.

Community Resilience Hubs is one of ten catalytic projects in the Just Imagine SWLA 50-Year Resilience Master Plan.  Learn more about all ten projects by visiting www.justimagineswla.org and by attending a public meeting:

Monday, June 6, Cash and Carry, Lake Charles, 6-8 p.m.

Tuesday, June 7, West-Cal Event Center, Sulphur, 6-8 p.m.

Wednesday, June 8, Grand Lake High School Gym, Grand Lake, 5-7 p.m.