Inside the Ouachita Parish Fire Department, in West Monroe, you’ll find Duffy Frantom speaking into a radio.

“If anybody knows if South Louisiana – if we have any buses from St. John’s Parish to Ouachita Parish.”

While New Orleans and surrounding areas begin recovery efforts, many from that region will call our area home for the next few days or weeks. Trying to contact loved ones back home? That’s next to impossible, with cell service, nearly non-existent.

“You might see an AT&T portable tower, which is the cell phone tower, ” says Frantom. “But, you can’t get into it because it’s programmed for public service people only, so they can use it.”

Since 1999, Frantom has served as the District Emergency Coordinator for the American Radio Emergency Services (ARES) for Region 8. He’s been the voice of information for those who need it. His resume includes assiting those during Hurricane Katrina. Now, he’s bringing ham radio to shelters in the region, connecting those who’ve evacuated back home.

“We don’t let them talk direct, ” says Frantom. “We will let them write it down on a piece of paper, what we call a ‘traffic ship’ – what they want to tell them. Who it’s going to.”

And, after that?

“They’ll let everybody know in the shelter that if you needed to get a message to your family or someone, go to this person. This is where they’re at in the shelter.”

Due to rising COVID-19 cases in Louisiana, ham radio operators won’t visit shelters, until Tuesday. But, until then?

“Let the shelter manager or police officer know that you’ve got a message and they will get a hold of us.”