PODCAST-When we think of rescuers, our thoughts default to police, fire and EMS. However, another group, much less formal, has been significantly involved in natural disaster rescue efforts across the southern US, primarily Louisiana and Texas, for the past decade. That assembly is referred to as the “Cajun Navy” and identifies ad-hoc volunteer groups comprising private boat owners who assist in search and rescue efforts. These groups were formed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and reactivated following the 2016 Louisiana floods and Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
DIRECT LINK to MP3 of this Episode: http://tinyurl.com/SDP46-AUDIO
WHAT IS CAJUN NAVY RELIEF?
Katie Pechon, Administration & Public Information Officer for Cajun Navy Relief, explains to Dr. Perrodin that the “Cajun Navy” is now a blanket term for variants of the original group assembled after Katrina. This splintering of sub-organizations has introduced representation issues and efforts are underway to unify the group and to acknowledge the primary incident command structure. The core, verified organization is Cajun Navy Relief and it is a not-for-profit 501c that works alongside traditional government units, such as fire departments or National Guard. Yet, the role of the “Cajun Navy”, as a collective response system, is not sanctioned by the government and the function of the Cajun Navy, exactly how it operates, how it dispatches, and how it is sustained, remains hazy to those not directly involved with the group.
SOCIAL MEDIA RESCUES
Zello, a company with just 14 employees, had its free “Walkie-Talkie” app become an integral communication tool between responders and people in need. Facebook Messenger was monitored by Katie, and others to create “tickets” to orderly dispatch literally thousands of volunteer rescue missions.
REGULATING THE CAJUN NAVY
Ironically, a few legislative bills surfaced in 2016 that would have imposed regulations, such as mandated training and licensing fees, upon this volunteer group. With a smile, Katie stated such acts would be fruitless as the CNR rescuers would respond to those in need and act in the best interest of people over compliance with seemingly frivolous laws. She added that the CNR interfaced efficiently, and was fully embraced by, Texas government officials as Hurricane Harvey hammered the state. The pressing need appears to be ensuring that imposters are scrubbed from response situations.
DOING MORE THAN YOU THINK
The YouTube version of this episode includes behind-the-scenes photos of Cajun Navy Relief prying blackened drywall from homes, loading helicopters and comforting tired, grief-stricken people. I was surprised to learn that CNR members are still re-building homes in Louisiana damaged in a flood nearly a year ago! The CNR scales up quickly as a rescue group and then remains, sometimes for months, to sustain recovery projects. This is funded from donations or paid from the wallets of volunteers.
SUPPORTING CAJUN NAVY RELIEF
I support grassroots rescue organizations that rapidly scale to meet the dynamic context and situation at hand. This type of “all hands on deck” mentality makes America strong and capitalizes upon the tacit knowledge, kindness and grit of those giving of their time, talents and resources to support rescue efforts – be it a crew in a boat or persons monitoring social media posts for help.
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ABOUT CAJUN NAVY RELIEF: To volunteer or donate, visit cajunnavyrelief.com