Baton Rouge, LA -- Professional leadership is important when hurricane winds sweep the parishes and rainfall measures as much as 15 inches in a 24-hour period. "But what also is important in these times is the dedication of individuals who go 'the extra mile'," said Carlos Mitchell, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) coordinating officer.
Working in conjunction with emergency managers in each parish Louisiana National Guard troops provided early emergency support to 24 parishes. Four-wheel drive vehicles, small and medium-sized boats, airboats and trucks were used in rescuing people trapped in flood waters.
Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) coordinated with Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) for all animal emergencies. LDAF managed livestock, horses and companion animals while LDWF dealt with wildlife.
The National Guard provided needed emergency items such as cots, blankets, sandbags, generators, trucks, security personnel and water pumps during the early stages of the disasters.
Whether it was providing emergency generators to hospitals, or ice and water to residents without power, state emergency workers and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers worked to respond to the needs of individuals.
Partnership also works among agencies and groups. An elderly woman in Vermilion Parish called the American Red Cross (ARC) when a tree crashed into her home. She was confined to a wheelchair and unable to do the necessary cleanup. The project wasn't within the scope of ARC activity but they notified the Southern Baptist Men, members of Voluntary Organization Active in Disasters (VOAD), and the work was completed.
More than 1.2 million meals and snacks were served by ARC that also sheltered more than 10.9 thousand displaced persons in 76 shelters throughout the state. They distributed more than 20,000 clean up kits, made more than 11,000 disaster health services contacts and more than 7,000 disaster mental health services contacts. A total of 3,820 ARC relief operation disaster men and women made this possible.
Volunteers from Mennonite Disaster Services helped with clean up in several parishes. Their chain saw crews focused on Acadia Parish and coordinated closely with the parish office of emergency management who provided verification of need for all referrals.
In Vermilion Parish $2 million damage to the roof of Abbeyville High School qualified for the inclusion of a safe area when rebuilding takes place. Funds from the 404 Mitigation program also may be used for a safe area in the new previously planned middle school. This proposal, which is currently under consideration by the school board, was the effort of FEMA's Public Assistance and Mitigation programs, along with the Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness (LOEP) and Parish Emergency Management Director Brig. Gen. Robert LeBlanc.
Communication is a critical component in any disaster. Lamar Outdoor Advertising donated space on two of their Interstate 10 billboards to get the registration message out while Direct TV made New Orleans linkage possible in the Disaster Field Office (DFO) for media monitoring. And Gov. Mike Brown recorded public service announcements to emphasize registration information.
Even debris can be turned into something useful. David Wittum, FEMA deputy environmental liaison officer, coordinated program compliance requirements with Jeffrey Giering, LOEP environmental officer and the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry's Best Management Practices Plan for use of clean, woody debris. With proper documentation, which can be obtained with an hour's turnaround by fax, this debris can be stockpiled in communities for use as mulch, firewood, landscaping or wildlife habitat. The City of Bunkie as well as the Louisiana Office of Mental Health, Pinecrest Developmental Center (located in a historic district), took adv...