BATON ROUGE, La. -- Hurricane Pam brought sustained winds of 120 mph, up to 20 inches of rain in parts of southeast Louisiana and storm surge that topped levees in the New Orleans area. More than one million residents evacuated and Hurricane Pam destroyed 500,000-600,000 buildings. Emergency officials from 50 parish, state, federal and volunteer organizations faced this scenario during a five-day exercise held this week at the State Emergency Operations Center in Baton Rouge.
The exercise used realistic weather and damage information developed by the National Weather Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the LSU Hurricane Center and other state and federal agencies to help officials develop joint response plans for a catastrophic hurricane in Louisiana.
"We made great progress this week in our preparedness efforts," said Ron Castleman, FEMA Regional Director. "Disaster response teams developed action plans in critical areas such as search and rescue, medical care, sheltering, temporary housing, school restoration and debris management. These plans are essential for quick response to a hurricane but will also help in other emergencies."
"Hurricane planning in Louisiana will continue," said Colonel Michael L. Brown, Deputy Director for Emergency Preparedness, Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. "Over the next 60 days, we will polish the action plans developed during the Hurricane Pam exercise. We have also determined where to focus our efforts in the future."
A partial summary of action plans follows:
- The debris team estimates that a storm like Hurricane Pam would result in 30 million cubic yards of debris and 237,000 cubic yards of household hazardous waste
- The team identified existing landfills that have available storage space and locations of hazardous waste disposal sites. The debris plan also outlines priorities for debris removal.
- The interagency shelter group identified the need for about 1,000 shelters for a catastrophic disaster. The shelter team identified 784 shelters and has developed plans for locating the remaining shelters.
- In a storm like Hurricane Pam, shelters will likely remain open for 100 days. The group identified the resources necessary to support 1000 shelters for 100 days. They planned for staff augmentation and how to include shelterees in shelter management.
- State resources are adequate to operate shelters for the first 3-5 days. The group planned how federal and other resources will replenish supplies at shelters.
Search and Rescue
- The search and rescue group developed a transportation plan for getting stranded residents out of harm's way.
- Planners identified lead and support agencies for search and rescue and established a command structure that will include four areas with up to 800 searchers.
- The medical care group reviewed and enhanced existing plans. The group determined how to implement existing immunization plans rapidly for tetanus, influenza and other diseases likely to be present after a major hurricane.
- The group determined how to re-supply hospitals around the state that would face heavy patient loads.
- The medical action plan includes patient movement details and identifies probable locations, such as state university campuses, where individuals would receive care and then be transported to hospitals, special needs shelters or regular shelters as necessary.