New Orleans 911 operators help out in hurricane-stricken Alabama

New Orleans 911 operators help out in hurricane-stricken Alabama
Operators answer emergency calls at Orleans Parish 911 Call Center. (Source: WVUE)
Operators answer emergency calls at Orleans Parish 911 Call Center.
Operators answer emergency calls at Orleans Parish 911 Call Center. (Source: WVUE)

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Inside the Orleans Parish Communications District’s 911 call center operators were busy responding to citizens calls. But several of their co-workers were many miles away in Alabama assisting victims of Hurricane Sally.

Tyrell Morris is Executive Director of the Orleans Parish Communications District.

“911 centers, we really are the gateway to government for everyone, emergency or not,” he said.

The team of New Orleans emergency telecommunicators left Wednesday evening and are now at work in Alabama.

“They have been boots on the ground with the Alabama’s Baldwin Country 911, helping the folks there on the ground. It is an opportunity for emergency communications professionals around the country to really help each other out. Here in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina we received all kinds of support,” said Morris.

Morris is also the coordinator for LA-TERT, which stands for Louisiana’s Telecommunicator Emergency Response Task Force. He handles out-of-state requests for assistance from telecommunications specialists through the national TERT program.

“So, when those requests come to Louisiana, they come to me. I work with the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency preparedness to fill those requests,” said Morris.

Fulfilling Baldwin County’s request was almost immediate, according to Morris.

“They find the TERT team that’s available, ours was available and so we received a call yesterday morning around 9 a.m. from Alabama, Baldwin County 911 to be exact, they were having a major increase in volume and needed some assistance and they were anticipating the call volume to be long-lasting and so within 28 minutes we had four teams assembled and ready to deploy, two here from Louisiana and two from Tennessee,” said Morris.

Morris said five staffers from Orleans Parish joined three from Bossier and St. Landry parishes to make the trip to Alabama.

“It’s a combination of call-takers, dispatchers and supervisors that have multiple skills,” said Morris.

Alabama’s Gov. Kay Ivey said the storm has caused more than just property damage, but also widespread power outages and she urged residents to be patient.

“Y’all I know, it’s uncomfortable and downright scary to be sitting in the darkness of your home without any lights, but please be patient. These linemen will be working at warp speed to try to get your power restored,” said Ivey.

Electricity is always an early casualty of hurricanes.

Entergy which serves over a million customers in Louisiana said it has crews in Alabama and Florida helping to restore electricity. And people in New Orleans know well the pain and devastation hurricanes can cause, so Morris says it feels good to be able to help a neighboring state.

“We’re all in this together and we all have the same mission, so we will always rise to the call when we’re called by other organizations to provide some assistance,” he said.

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