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In the early 90's there was once again some major Spring flooding in North Louisiana. On the VHF repeaters, one could hear folks passing messages in a very structured manor, interacting with various public service agencies. I wasn't sure just what was going on at first, but I had to get involved. This started my relationship with ARES. I later found out that in Ouachita Parish (Louisiana has Parishes, rather than counties), Amateur Radio operators had a very long history of working with the Civil Defense (now Homeland Security) office. I joined the group and learned all I could. After a short time, I was approached to take over as the Emergency Coordinator for the parish.
During the fifteen or so years between then and now, we have not only maintained our relationship with the local office of Homeland Security, but have also developed or strengthened relationships with additional agencies as well. A few of these include: Ouachita Parish Sheriff's and Fire Depts.; Cities of Monroe and West Monroe Police and Fire Depts.; National Weather Service, Red Cross, LA Hospital Assn, Region 8; Northeast LA Sheriff's Assn.; Northeast LA Emergency Manager's Assn.; and many more.
During my tenure as Emergency Coordinator, I was afforded the opportunity to speak at the National Hurricane Conference on two occasions, once in Houston and the second time in New Orleans. I was also invited to speak in Washington DC., at the Project Impact conference in November, 2000.
Although these were "icing on the cake", the best part was being able to work with a wonderful group of volunteers, who are willing to stop everything at the drop of a hat, and give their time and efforts in the name of public service. A prime example of this was the fact that in 2005, Northeast Louisiana ARES volunteers logged over 3000 hours assisting in the hurricane Katrina / Rita emergency response operation. We have a permanent stations set up in the Ouachita Parish EOC, several hospitals and other locations throughout the region. We have a top notch group here in the area and I am proud to be associated with them. Above all, it's a team effort.
In the Spring of 2007, after almost 15 years as Ouachita Emergency Coordinator, I made the decision to step down. It was time for me to actually spend time in the family business, and also pursue other facets of Amateur Radio (particularly contesting). I still maintain my ARES membership, and am available for consultation or if they need a post manned.
For information on ARES operations in Ouachita Parish and the Louisiana District, please visit the site ares-nela.org.