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Several area organizations met on Thursday to discuss their preparations ahead of Tropical Storm Barry’s anticipated landfall over the next several days.

The meeting, held at the United Way of Southwest Louisiana office, was part of the Southwest Louisiana chapter of Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster, or VOAD. Officials with Lake Charles Police, Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office, Lake Charles Fire Department, Salvation Army Lake Charles, the Cajun Navy, area churches and other organizations, attended.

“It really is just about communicating with each other,” said Denise Durel, United Way SWLA president/CEO.

The VOAD’s structure was revamped over the past year to focus more on having agencies collaborate and communicate to know each other’s plans ahead of time.

“VOAD is now not a group that’s going to do something massive together, like open a shelter or open a distribution center, because there are so many groups that are already doing that so well,” she said. “If everybody is doing what they’re experts at, that’ll help the community more in the long run.”

Lt. LeAnna Marion with the Salvation Army said they have stocked the mobile canteen unit to cook and distribute at least three meals for at least 100 people. She said rooms will be available for single men needing shelter.

Capt. Jim Graves said the Sheriff’s Office enforcement division is split between the east and west sides of the parish. He said the department has marine boats on either side of the parish, along with five new high water vehicles.

“We’re ready,” Graves said.

Lennie LaFleur with LCPD said a two-tiered shift system for police begins today until the threat has passed. She said there are four flat water boats available for rescues.

Mike Reid with the Cajun Navy said most of the boats are stationed in the Baton Rouge area around Denham Springs. He said they will be taking in supplies at a warehouse in Youngsville over the next several days.

Tom Dolph, superintendent of the United Methodist Church Lake Charles district, said their focus is more on recovery and clean up after the storm.

“We are ready to roll,” he said. “A lot of our emphasis is actually moving to the Baton Rouge area, but we are ready to bring folks in when it’s time for recovery.”

Sara Judson, president/CEO of the Community Foundation of Southwest Louisiana, said they are communicating with the foundations in the Baton Rouge and New Orleans area. She said the local foundation will be able to open a fund as residents want to contribute assistance to storm victims.

Other organizations wanting to join Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster can call the United Way of SWLA at 433-1088.

Online: unitedwayswla.org

Calcasieu Parish Government and Cameron Parish Reporter

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