La. Hurricane Safe Rooms Fitted with Pump Automation Systems

April 26, 2007

Engineers in Jefferson Parish, La., said recent tests show flood pumps can be turned on automatically by workers holed up in nearby safe rooms during major hurricanes.

When a major hurricane threatens the parish, pump operators will be ordered to seek shelter in new bunker-like structures next to pump stations and they would likely need to turn pumps on from the safe rooms.

Recently, contractors installed the remote operation control and automation system for pump stations, said Kazem Alikhani, the parish director of drainage. The system was demonstrated at a pump station on the West Bank in Bayou Segnette State Park.

Parish President Aaron Broussard has made the safe rooms a centerpiece of hurricane preparations. He came up with the idea for the shelters after residents criticized him for evacuating about 230 pump station workers to Washington Parish during Hurricane Katrina. That move forced the workers to shut down the pumps, causing neighborhoods to flood because it took pump operators 12 hours to return to their posts.

But the safe room plan was scaled back from 17 to eight after project prices soared above parish estimates.

The safe rooms, designed to withstand Category 5 hurricane conditions, include metal cots, a tiny bathroom, a kitchenette, a television and a hatch in the roof where workers can escape if other doors are blocked by debris. They also will have enough water and fuel to operate for several days.

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