“The Cajun Navy Foundation is rooted in technology. Yes, it’s boats, but it’s technology,” says Rob Gaudet, Founder of the Cajun Navy Foundation. While the Cajun Navy Foundation is a citizen-led relief effort, it wouldn’t be where it is today without the use of technology.
When Hurricane Katrina devastated areas throughout southeast Louisiana, resources were maxed out. There weren’t enough people or resources to meet the demands. It was during this historic event that citizens began filling the gaps where federal and state resources could not.
The name, “Cajun Navy,” took hold because of the fleets of civilian boats launched headed out on rescue missions. Despite limited technology and a communication infrastructure that had been damaged, the Cajun Navy still managed to coordinate efforts.
The Cajun Navy had a major impact on rescue efforts during the 2016 flood in large part because of the improved technology. Authorities were still overwhelmed and resources limited, and “citizens filled the gaps because of technology,” says Gaudet. “People could get on Facebook and get help, or find ways to help.”
While the name ‘Cajun Navy’ conjures up images of civilian boats, there’s actually much more to it. “The Cajun Navy Foundation is a dispatch organization,” says Gaudet, “Because of today’s technology, we can dispatch citizen groups across the country to rescue, clear debris, whatever is needed.”
The Cajun Navy Foundation assists with disasters far beyond Louisiana. Using GPS and Zello, the Cajun Navy Foundation can dispatch civilian operations across the country.
According to Sandy Reeves, the Lead Dispatcher and member of the Cajun Navy Foundation administrative team, “Whenever there is a disaster, the Cajun Navy is the number one channel on Zello.” With the advances in technology, the Cajun Navy has gone far beyond water rescues.
A combination of global communication and a dispatch team, the Cajun Navy Foundation has coordinated relief efforts with the California wildfires and Texas tornadoes. “We have a very targeted dispatch system so we can send the exact help that is needed. It may be supply teams, debris removal, animal rescue, or chainsaw teams that are needed,” says Reeves.
Beyond the immediate rescue, the Foundation sees their impact as a major part of recovery. “Citizens are filling the gap. Our technology improves collaboration, reduces the cost, and can improve the time it takes to recover,” says Gaudet. “The Cajun Navy Foundation can help people recover more completely and more efficiently.”
In a partnership with local businesses, the Cajun Navy Foundation has even launched a disaster registry (crowdrelief.net) which is a highly targeted relief effort in which survivors and relief providers are matched.
Survivors can list the exact items lost, and people can search the list and buy the items directly for the family or individual. Again, with the use of technology, the registry includes services for both survivors and those looking to help. The site includes an interactive map with points of distribution, Red Cross locations, and opportunities to volunteer.
The Cajun Navy Foundation puts boots on the ground, providing help and hope to those in need during a disaster. ■