Before the storms, we purchased new portable accountability readers for our site but were having trouble with them staying online. Since we were relying on a Wi-Fi connection, we switched to FirstNet from AT&T, and inFRONT helped us procure new sim cards. With a reliable connection, the new portables acted strictly as accountability readers for our site.

During Hurricane Laura, we had a ride out crew of approximately 170 people on site. After the gates were locked, we ran an accountability drill to create an updated list of personnel and printed a paper report in case we lost power. As the hurricane hit, we lost power to the entire plant and parish. We had backup generators for critical areas but our network was down. With the printed accountability report, we called each area and accounted for all 170 fairly quickly.

Over the next two days, we brought hundreds of people on site for cleanup and power restoration. Our gate readers and network were still down so accounting for the large numbers was difficult. Three people had to write hundreds of names on a list as they came in and also find them to sign them out. It was a hot mess.

We called inFRONT and asked about the possibility of turning our portable readers into “in” and “out” devices and having a few more rented to us. In just two days, their team showed up and programmed five working in-and-out readers. After hooking up generators to each reader and our network computer, we grabbed as many visitor’s badges as we could find and issued them to the linemen and cleanup crews. Each night, we entered the visitor badge with the name and company assigned. Within a week, there were 800 people enrolled and accounted for on a daily basis using the portable readers. Most of our gate readers, along with our electrical infrastructure, were damaged in the storm (thanks to a direct hit from a category four hurricane) so we continued to use these for weeks until repairs could be made.

Right before we were about to return the rented readers and turn the purchased ones back to accountability readers, we got the news another hurricane was headed our way—and hit us again. We locked in, ran an accountability drill, and printed a hard copy. As soon as the hurricane passed, we manually accounted for everyone from the report again. We only lost power and parts for about a week during the second hurricane but we already had the equipment on-site and ready to go. We were back up and running with the AllClear system the next day. Now knowing its capabilities, we will be ready for an event like this again.

Big thanks to the inFRONT crew who jumped through hoops for us. They allowed us to account for our crew, keep them safe, and track the hundreds of contractors unfamiliar with our facility. I can’t say enough about AllClear, FirstNet (we never lost signal to any of our readers), and the portable equipment.


Cheri Ardoin

Cheri is a Senior Emergency Response Specialist for Westlake Chemical in Westlake, LA. She is responsible for leading and training in Incident command, Industrial Fire, Hazmat, Rope Rescue, and Confined Space rescue. She is also a competitive firefighter having won or placed in the World Championships of Firefighting in both individual and team relay events on several occasions.

2021 emergency response trends