Pointe Coupee Parish’s 911 operation was the primary focus of the Police Jury’s meeting Tuesday night as the jury adopted two measures to strengthen the agency’s ability to respond to emergency calls.

The first measure is a state-of-emergency declaration that parish leaders hope will expedite the allocation of about $300,000 in state funding to replace the 911 call center’s outdated answering equipment.

The second was adopting a campaign from jury president Melanie Bueche encouraging residents to place addresses on the outside of their homes and businesses.

Bueche’s campaign involves hiring the parish’s director of homeland security and emergency preparedness, Don Ewing, on a part-time basis, after he retires Jan. 31, to work with parish leaders for the next six months on the address campaign.

Bueche stressed the importance of the campaign, noting an LSU survey that indicates more than 13,000 of the homes and businesses in the parish did not have outside address signs to help guide first responders in emergencies.

“This is very alarming,” she said. “The purpose of this campaign is to make citizens aware.”

Bueche said the Sheriff’s Office has agreed to take a more aggressive approach in enforcing a parish ordinance requiring that residential homes and businesses have clearly marked addresses.

“The sheriff said he’ll start writing citations for calls they respond to where there isn’t an address,” she said.

As for the equipment upgrade, Juror Justin Cox said incoming calls at the 911 call center won’t be answered as quickly as they usually are after the answering equipment malfunctioned this week.

“If the operators are answering a call and a second person buzzes in, its going to ring three times before it rolls over to a second line where it can be answered,” Cox said. “So there’s going to be some delay to get to that second call.”

Cox said the equipment in the call center is outdated and in need of an upgrade. The parish already has about $300,000 in earmarked state funds to use to upgrade the system, but they’ll need to rush the necessary paperwork to access those funds.

The parish will be able to do that through the state-of-emergency declaration, he said.

“Hopefully this will articulate to the state that we need to move on this ASAP,” Cox said in a text message after the meeting.

In the meantime, the parish is trying to repair the call center’s current answering system, he said.

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