Imagine: Community Resilience Centers Could Fill a Void in Many Areas – American Press


Editor’s note: This is the fourth in an 11-part series detailing the last 10 catalyst projects of the Just Imagine 50-year resilience plan. All projects are based on input from area residents, high school students, business and nonprofit leaders, and elected officials. The final three community engagement sessions where residents can give feedback on the projects will take place June 6-8.

Shandy Ogea Heil is a Certified Floodplain Manager.

On the east side of Cameron Parish, mass feeding and distribution of supplies 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 badly 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 to residents the next time a big storm hits?

Just Imagine SWLA’s 50-year Resilience Master Plan identified various communities in the region that lack well-constructed public spaces that can meet critical community needs before, during and after weather disasters. Many of these same communities and neighborhoods also lack building space and infrastructure that support community engagement and improved quality of life. Community Resilience Centers aim to fill both voids by becoming a constant capable of withstanding the worst weather events and providing services such as cell phone charging and medicine refrigeration when power goes out in a neighborhood.

On blue sky days, Community Resilience Centers provide a gathering space for enrichment activities that improve the quality of life for residents of all ages. From meeting spaces, concert halls and summer camps for young people, the structure can serve many purposes. Community Resilience Center grounds can also be used with the installation of playground equipment, wading pools or bike paths. Gardens, stocked fishing ponds, and outdoor spaces for pop-up farmers’ and seafood markets can provide options for communities that aren’t near grocery stores or healthy food options. The daytime uses of blue skies are endless.

Community Resilience Centers act as an essential facility, intended to operate continuously throughout a disaster to meet critical needs during response and recovery. Built to withstand hurricane-force winds and located in areas with low flood risk, a community resilience center is meant to be a constant and beacon of hope that can withstand the worst storms. They can provide power and communications when the grid is down and act as a distribution center for meals and supplies. 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 Centers should be strategically located throughout the region to connect to existing roads and public buildings. If a public facility or geographic area is compromised during a disaster, such as the Cameron Government Complex, having a Community Resilience Center on higher ground and built to withstand hurricane-force winds can offer a emergency facility for public works or serving residents during recovery.

Stevie Trahan, External Relations Manager at Cameron LNG, explained how the Hackberry Community Center was already functioning as a center of resilience. This facility was built by Cameron LNG for the residents of 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 distributing food and supplies, and a robust WiFi system to accommodate a command center. FEMA operated a mobile office from this site after Hurricane Laura. Outside of disaster times, the center is used for weddings, parties, training sessions and even funerals.

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

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

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

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

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