Storms batter central stations in Louisiana

Friday, November 1, 2002

As two back-to back storms battered the Louisiana coast over a ten-day span, two central stations here relied on very different emergency backup plans to keep their operations afloat during the storm.

Located in towns not far from Louisiana's Gulf Coast, both central stations were able to make it through the storm without disruptions in service, said officials at both companies.

Alarm Monitoring Services all but evacuated its facilities in Metairie, a suburb of New Orleans, and used a disaster recovery center run by Dice Corp. AMS' 30,000 accounts and a crew of five employees were moved to Dice's facility in Essexville, Mich. For a period of 36 hours during Isidore, and for 24 hours during Lili, all alarms were routed to Dice's disaster center, said Dera DeRoche, president of Alarm Monitoring Services.

"We were able to set the whole thing up in less than eight hours, DeRoche said. Dice employees, some former central station employees, helped to man the operations in Michigan.

The combination of tropical story Isidore, which made landfall in late September and Hurricane Lili, which struck on Oct. 3, caused a total of $235 million in damage to insured property in the state, and forced more than 10,500 people into shelters around Louisiana.

Employees at Acadian OnWatch, a central station located further west in Lafayette, hunkered down to wait out the storm, handling call volumes of about five times the normal signal traffic, said Blane Comeaux, general manager of the central station.

"We had our teams working double shifts around the clock and camping out here," Comeaux said. "The only thing we really saw was a flood of alarms."

Comeaux said Acadian OnWatch's call volume went from an average of 800 calls per day to about 4,800 calls the day after Hurricane Lili struck. The central station was about to undergo an upgrade of its Bold Technologies software to Manitou when the hurricane struck.