Before I resurrect the old Village People song “In the Navy” let’s give some rational thought to adding a thin layer of organization to boat owners that might potentially volunteer to help in times of flooding. And in this part of the country we’re always talking about two floods: the last one and the next one.

There’s been a lot of talk and confusion about State Senator J.P. Perry’s bill regarding efforts like the “Cajun Navy” ad-hoc collection of private boat owners and volunteers that sprang into action saving many, many lives as the recent flood waters rose. To speak plainly the honorable senator seeks to remove any restrictions in time of stress about getting through police roadblocks etc., to help with your boat. It’s all good actually.

There was confusion at some point as some thought the bill would add restrictions, regulations, fees, training etc., No. Again the senator will open the floodgates if you will, to allow local LEO to allow these volunteers past police roadblocks into potentially hazardous areas.

But it spurred a thought: the last boat I owned was a 24’ cuddy cabin a larger, small craft. It would not bother me at all if when I’d registered it, I had the option to include my boat in a special database of local boats available in times of disaster. And it wouldn’t bother me if there was a few items required in addition to the USCG requirements, that would be handy in a flood for rescue on such “Registered Rescue Boats” for instance: if people are on their rooftop it may be hard for them to leap into a bobbing boat – they may be likely to fall in first – so how about these kinds of items on a non-professional privately-owned volunteer rescue vessel:

  1. Extra flotation devices, ring buoys might be best they can be thrown further
  2. A boat hook that telescopes – I always had these kind on my boat anyway, this allows you to reach out to someone in the water and give them something to hold onto
  3. A ladder – a regular ‘ski’ ladder would suffice, victims have to be able to get out of the water an into your boat with a minimum of stress and without capsizing

There might be a few more useful items for rescuing people in neighborhoods by volunteer boaters, (snakebite kits?). While I routinely disdain extra regulations and fees – I wouldn’t mind an extra $5 to register my boat as available in emergencies and maybe have a special sticker for the prow of my ship so law enforcement easily recognizes why I’m there.

By being known and in a database, in a disaster now I can be ‘dispatched’ to where a boat of my boats size and draft would be most useful. If volunteers were known they could be used more effectively and faster in an organized Emergency Response situation where a ‘tiered Command Post” system is utilized, which is almost universal in public disaster response. Volunteers could be directed to where they’re needed most,

So while the good senators’ bill would eliminate any restrictions to boaters volunteering rescue while the water is rising – this concept would help be sure those future rescuers are properly equipped with some basics and they wouldn’t end up as victims needing rescuing too, that’s all.

And now back to the Village People: “Come on now people make a stand, in the Cajun Navy, in the Cajun Navy – Can’t you see we need a hand, in the Cajun Navy!” Carry On.