Despite Exxon saying alerts were sent during fire, many residents never received them

Residents living near ExxonMobil refinery concerned after not receiving alerts about fire

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - As flames towered over the ExxonMobil refinery, lighting up the night sky Tuesday, residents say they were kept in the dark.

Exxon representatives told WAFB alerts were sent out to residents within a one-mile radius of the refinery.

Those alerts reportedly went out around 12:20 a.m, an hour after the fire was discovered and were sent in the form of a pre-recorded phone call.

Many residents say they never received those calls.

“I didn’t know anything that was going on,” said Nora Darby. “My nieces and nephews came over and was knocking on the door. Then my sister called and said get up, get up and get out because Exxon is on fire.”

Darby lives just down the road from the refinery. You can see the facility from her front yard.

Across the neighborhood she lives in, the same story was repeated over and over again. Neighbors claim they never received any alerts from Exxon.

“We saw the people coming and I saw my brother and I asked him, wonder why Exxon didn’t call,” said Eric Kent. “I went and checked the phone and we didn’t have any calls from Exxon.”

Kent lives about a mile away from Darby. His house is about two blocks away from the refinery. He had a front-row seat to the fire.

“It was a straight-up fire,” said Kent. “It was just fire that was shooting up.”

Despite being able to see the flames from his front yard, Kent said he had no idea about the severity of the situation.

“For them to not give us a call to let us know what was going on, we’re still, if it weren’t for the news, we wouldn’t know what was happening,” said Kent.

The morning of the fire, Exxon said it sent out an alert. Representatives later told WAFB only those who signed up for its Code Red alerts received the messages.

Kent and Darby said that is a change from how it has been done previously.

Darby said she has lived in the same house and had the same number since the 80s. She is confident Exxon has her number because she received alerts from the company previously.

"In the past, they would maybe call you and say close your windows. It’s not going to be any worry if you close your windows, if you don’t let any air in or anything but this time, nothing at all. Nothing,” she said.

The fact that seemingly no one in the neighborhoods surrounding the refinery received the alerts is concerning to both Kent and Darby.

WAFB spent Thursday canvassing the neighborhoods surrounding the refinery. No one who answered the door said they received any kind of alert from Exxon.

WAFB also asked residents who did receive an alert to contact us. At the time this story was published, no one had done so.

“My thing is that Exxon needs to do better,” said Kent. “They need to do better.”

Exxon representatives did note the company was working on improving the alert system, however, no further information was sent on the matter.

Exxon declined an interview request for this story.

To sign up for emergency alerts from Exxon, you can click the link here and register for the Code Red system.

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