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

By Nancy on October 10, 2016

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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.

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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 info@zello.com. We’d love to hear about it!

Zello presents at Russian Transport Safety Forum

By Nancy on April 29, 2016

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Zello has a large following in Russia, especially within the transportation sector, which includes taxi and delivery services. Recently, Zello’s COO in Russia, Veronika Zaslavskaya, was invited to speak about transportation safety issues and how Zello could be used to avoid dangerous driver actions such as texting or handling devices while driving.

The panel also discussed the adoption of safety laws similar to the 2012 U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations for commercial truck drivers which bans texting and phone handling while driving. As each violation can cost up to $2750 for the driver and $11,000 for the employer, trucking companies are eager to adopt technologies such as Zello for Work to ensure their drivers are compliant.

By using Zello with hands-free accessories or as part of an integrated in-cab solution, drivers can easily communicate with dispatchers and other drivers while keeping their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.

The findings from the transport safety forum will be used to prepare recommendations for the Russian legislature, to be presented later this year.

Zello PTT Walkie-Talkie: Friends and Charity Meet

By Nancy on June 3, 2014

It was almost two years ago when Jonet Rohmanyu stumbled upon the Zello walkie-talkie push-to-talk (PTT) app. Like many things in life, little things can lead to life-changing experiences. And that’s exactly what happened to Jonet.

Jonet started using Zello after hearing about it in his village of Jogja, Indonesia. People liked Zello for PTT communications because it worked well even with poor network conditions, it was fast and it was free. The fact that Zello also had “channels” that could be used like CB radio channels for public group chats was a plus. Initially, Jonet was a member of several channels representing different cities in Indonesia, but he wanted one place where he could talk to all his newfound friends and coordinate gatherings.

As a result, Jonet created his “Komunitas Zello Indonesia” channel on June 23, 2012. It was easy to do and an immediate success. “Komunitas Zello Indonesia” — which translates to “Indonesian Zello Community” — has grown to 870 members, many who have become good friends. They hold regular meetings such as game competitions, sports and music events, picnics and visiting homes of “Zelloites” in neighboring cities, where they just hang out.

In addition to their many small gatherings, members of the channel also use it to organize charity events. In 2013, they held a blood drive and a charity event for a local orphanage. All coordinated using this Zello channel, people from several cities participated in these events. The members are such big Zello enthusiasts that they had Zello T-shirts made to wear at their events. “Komunitas Zello Indonesia” is an inspiring example of how Zello can be used to bring together people for both fun and good causes.

Here are some photos from their charity events:

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A big thanks to “Komunitas Zello Indonesia” for sponsoring these charity events and letting Zello be a part of it!

For more information about “Komunitas Zello Indonesia,” please visit:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/KomunitasZelloIndonesia/

https://www.facebook.com/KomunitasZelloIndonesia

If you manage a Zello PTT channel or know of a channel that should be featured on our blog, please contact support@zello.com.

 

Aussie Tech Heads Review

By Bill Moore on November 12, 2012

Australian Airline Features Zello

By Bill Moore on October 25, 2012

From this months Executive PA Magazine.

Zello Pitches ITEXPO Startup Camp

By Bill Moore on October 8, 2012

Last week we had some fun pitching at Startup Camp

NYT says “the same sense of wonder”

By Bill Moore on September 6, 2012

Today’s New York Times has a nice review of Zello from David Pogue…

ZELLO WALKIE TALKIE This free app works on iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and Windows, which makes it far more useful than, for example, iPhone-only apps. The design is beautiful, simple and uncluttered — there aren’t even ads.

Like most of the best apps, Zello lets you create groups so that you can carry on something like a party-line phone call among a handful — or hundreds — of friends or collaborators. The company suggests, for example, that you can set up a Zello “room” for your company’s customers when they have questions.

What’s wild is that Zello comes prestocked with such channels from India, London, Toronto, Washington and so on. You sit there, jaw agape, and listen to people, in real time, from all over the world. You feel the same sense of wonder you felt when you were little and your dad took you down to his basement to listen to a ham radio.