The Cajun Navy: How Tech and Boaters Joined Forces to Save Lives

By Nancy on October 10, 2016


You might not have heard, but last August 2016, the biggest flood to hit Louisiana in 500 years happened. More than 30,000 people were evacuated and over 146,000 homes damaged. Unlike well-known Hurricane Katrina in 2005, it didn’t have a name, and the rescue and recovery efforts were better orchestrated. So it just wasn’t deemed as newsworthy.

Consequently, little was publicized about the rescue efforts of a small ragtag band of boaters known as the “Cajun Navy.” But their story deserves to be told. It’s a story about regular folks doing extraordinary things, using a little tech and a lot of determination.

The original Cajun Navy was born out of necessity during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Plagued by government red tape and delayed rescue efforts during Katrina, a small group of locals with boats got together and pitched in to do whatever they could. They became local heroes known as The Cajun Navy, as they picked up residents trapped by flood waters, put them on their boats, and transported them to safety.

The namesake group was called into action again this past August 12th, when flooding began in Livingston Parish – the hardest hit area. The amount of water rose so quickly, that it caught many residents off guard. Unable to prepare and evacuate in time, many found themselves stranded in their homes or on their rooftops.

Initial frantic calls for help came across on Facebook posts. AT&T cell towers were knocked out, making phone calls impossible. Many people in neighboring unaffected parishes saw these pleas and wanted to do something to help. They didn’t want to sit idle or wait for the government to come and rescue these people. It was at this point that a new, stronger, and more organized Cajun Navy really sprang into action.

Realizing there needed to be a central point of command to coordinate rescue efforts, stay-at-home mom and local Good Samaritan, Alaina Hebert, took it upon herself to head rescue efforts. A brand-new Facebook group for rescue efforts was created, asking for volunteers to join, especially those with boats and other equipment. The group eventually grew to over 23,000 members from all parts of the U.S. With a huge base of volunteers ready and able to help out, the Cajun Navy was now ready to take on the daunting task of coordinating water rescues.

As the flooding progressed, Parish Sheriff offices quickly became inundated with calls for help. With a backlog of over over 150 unanswered calls, Parish officials welcomed the offer of help from the Cajun Navy to handle some of the overflow. Cajun Navy volunteers immediately stepped in to help, going where needed with Sheriff Deputies onboard using their flotilla of fishing boats, canoes, and kayaks.

In the end, the Cajun Navy, with their band of 100-200 amateur and professional boaters, managed to save thousands of stranded residents and pets. The entire rescue effort was coordinated using two free apps: Zello as a live walkie-talkie dispatch and Glympse as a GPS locator. It was the first time apps had been used in this way – the technology did not exist during Hurricane Katrina.

Shawn Boudreaux, VP of the Cajun Navy and self-described “closet nerd” introduced the technology to the group. An avid player of Ingress (a location-based mobile app game), he used Zello to communicate with fellow team members during Ingress events. Shawn knew Zello could be a great tool for dispatchers to coordinate the hundreds of boats scattered throughout flooded areas. With the support of now Cajun Navy President, Alaina Hebert, he put the apps in motion by asking for volunteers on Facebook to come and install Zello and Glympse on their devices before going out on water rescues.

Shawn created a private Zello channel called “CajunNavy” for the volunteer dispatchers and boaters to communicate with each other. At the peak of the crisis, the channel had over 800 members or subscribers. All 800 could be online and active at the same time (the limit is 2000). As calls for help came in, they were transmitted live on the channel. By using Glympse and Google Maps for GPS coordinates, the closest boats could then be dispatched to help. The process resulted in more efficient and timely rescues.

A sister group named the “Cajun Army” also used Zello to coordinate post-flood efforts, providing food and shelter and dispatching volunteers to help clean-up damaged homes.


Though flood waters have since receded, the Cajun Navy and Cajun Army continues to help their neighbors rebuild their homes and lives. This is all done without monetary donations or government aid. If you would like to help out or just thank them, please join their Facebook groups and Zello channel by using the links below.

Cajun Navy Facebook Page
Cajun Army Facebook Page
Cajun Navy Zello Channel

If you have a similar story of how you used Zello to help your community, please contact us at We’d love to hear about it!

Public channels in Loudtalks Lite

By Alexey Gavrilov on April 19, 2010

The most recent update of Loudtalks Lite introduces new important feature — public talk channels. Public channels are open conversations between Loudtalks users, where as many as 100 people can participate at once. The concept is somewhat similar to Skypecasts, which were offered by Skype until discontinued in 2008.

Public channels are useful to:

  1. Meet the new people from around the world
  2. Discuss a topic with like minded strangers
  3. Share and receive updates on important time-sensitive information (traffic situation in your area, stocks market etc)
  4. Broadcast your status updates to interested followers (yes, like twitter)
  5. Learn a new language

Connecting to existing channels

1. Use menu Tools > Add a channel…

2. Enter channel name or the keywords (you can try ‘lobby’ or ‘support’) and press Next

3. It’ll show the list of the channels found. Click on the desired channel name to select it and click Next

4. After confirmation screen the channel will appear in your contacts.

5. To talk to the channel, select it in the contacts and use PTT key as usual. Please note that some channels may be “read-only”.

6. Use right-click on the channel name to Connect or Disconnect the channel or setup Auto-connect, when you log in.

7. If you want to delete the channel from your contacts you can use Tools > Delete selected contact(s) menu command.

When receiving a message from a channel both user name and channel name are displayed. In Loudtalks history you can use context menu on the incoming message to add the user who sent it to your contacts with one click. We are building the directory of the channels available to make the discovery easier.

Creating and managing your own channel

Have something interesting to share with the world? You can create one or more channels yourself!

1. Use Tools > Create a channel… menu command.

2. Name your channel, add description, select the channel type and click Next.

It’s very important to write a good and detailed description — the keywords it includes can be used by others to find your channel. Include the language of your channel, and its location (for location-sensitive information) into description. You can either allow anyone to talk on the channel or make it broadcast-only so you can talk uninterrupted. In the later case you may want to create another channel specifically for comments and mention it in the main channel description.

3. If the channel name is available, it’ll be created, added to your contacts and available for others to join.

4. The person who created the channel becomes channel administrator and have additional functions available in the context menu on incoming message in the history.

To fight abuse the channel admin can block any user from accessing the channel (or unblock the user previously blocked).

Hope you’ll enjoy the new feature! It’s still an early version of it so please share your suggestions and feedback — either in comments here or via ‘support’ channel in Loudtalks Lite.

Update (May 12, 2010): Now you can browse the public channels online.

New in Loudtalks Cloud — dynamic channels & remote configuration

By Alexey Gavrilov on September 26, 2009

With Loudtalks Cloud update published yesterday we introduced two new features and numerous improvements, which worth some explanation. These are dynamic channels and clients remote configuration from the admin console.

Dynamic channels

Now when configuring a channel in the admin console, you can choose from using group channel and dynamic channel.

Dynamic channels have a different icon and work differently too.

  1. Unlike group channels, when you add it to the user, only that channel (and not its users) is added to user’s contacts
  2. You can connect and disconnect the channel from the client software in real time by double-click (tap) on the channel name. That way you can easily skip the conversations, which are not relevant at the moment
  3. Since dynamic channels don’t “pollute” your contact list, they could potentially scale well beyond 100 users per channel so you can use it for broadcast to really large groups of users which was impossible before.

Along with the introduction of dynamic channels concept the group channels operations was also seriously redesigned. Both group and dynamic channels now include the following features:

  1. For messages received from a channel, the channel name along with sender name appear in the notification window (only user name appeared previously)
  2. Channels now have their own history display
  3. When the new message is received from a channel after a period of inactivity (“new conversation” event), the channel is selected in the contacts instead of a user
  4. Call setup time for one-to-many calls is faster than before and consistently under 1 second
  5. There is a grace time of 10 seconds for every message sent to the channel. During that time the person speaking couldn’t be interrupted. That solves the issue when many people start speaking simultaneously but still allows to interrupt someone, who took over the channel for too long.

Clients remote configuration

If you are running a large network, you may face the problem of manual configuration of every device, which could be troublesome. With remote configuration feature the network admin can setup certain client options for all users right from the web console.

Right now we enabled the configuration of automatic updates, auto-away and voice quality.

Voice quality configuration wasn’t available before and now you can select one of standard profiles or go real hardcore and modify raw codec options. This might be especially useful if you are using Loudtalks over the satellite internet (where traffic is extremely expensive).

If you haven’t tried Loudtalks Cloud yet, go ahead and try it now. It’s free!

Using VOX mode in Loudtalks

By Alexey Gavrilov on April 28, 2009

Loudtalks introduced the new advanced feature, which requires some explanation. It’s voice-controlled transmission (or VOX) mode. The purpose of this mode is to allow you communicating without using a keyboard at all, which could be very useful sometimes although it might require some upfront configuration. You can switch between PTT and VOX modes on the fly using the hotkeys.

Turning VOX mode on

Before you can use VOX you should turn it on and probably tweak some settings. Go to Tools > Options… and open Control tab:

Click Apply. Now it’s enabled and you can close the settings. However if you start speaking now nothing would happen. This is because in order to keep the flexibility you can switch on the fly between push-to-talk and VOX modes.
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echo robot is broken

By Alexey Gavrilov on December 17, 2008

We’ve discovered “echo” robot, which is added to the new users’ contacts by default has been broken for a few days now. We are now working to isolate the issue and bring it back online. For now if you want to test Loudtalks briefly please feel free to add me (“alex”) to your contacts.

I’ll post a separate note, when echo is back online.

Known bugs in

By Alexey Gavrilov on February 21, 2008

We have discovered two major bugs in release, which is currently up on the site namely:

  1. Multiple recipients messaging doesn’t work
  2. Connection via Microsoft ISA server http-proxy doesn’t work

They are fixed in, currently under development, which will be released very very soon. The new release will include many cool new features too:

  1. Messages history
  2. Automatic updates support
  3. Ability to assign mouse buttons as hotkeys
  4. Volume controls in audio settings
  5. Automatic gain control option
  6. Enhanced headphones mode

Loudtalks: Quick start guide

By Alexey Gavrilov on September 26, 2007

After testing Loudtalks with several users (thanks guys!) I realized that we need to do a better job communicating how the software works and all cool features we have. This guide (based on version, updated) explains Loudtalks step-by-step.

Download and Installation

The download is less than a megabyte and would take ~20 seconds on DSL connection. Once you received the file, launch it and follow the wizard.

Setup wizard

If previous version of Loudtalks is running during installation, it will be terminated automatically.


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Testing Loudtalks

By Alexey Gavrilov on September 19, 2007

We released a minor Loudtalks update today (version, which improves sound quality (makes it suck less) under bad network conditions (read — TechCrunch40 WiFi network).

If you want to try Loudtalks quickly, feel free to add me to your contacts.

  1. Login to Loudtalks
  2. Go to “Tools > Add a contact…”
  3. Enter “alex” and click Next, and then Finish

Leave Loudtalks running and when I come online I’ll add you and we can do a quick test.