Saturday, July 20, 2024

Louisiana officials say state is ready for emergencies such as hurricanes

by BIZ Magazine

(The Center Square) – While state officials say Louisiana is storm-ready as hurricane season begins Saturday, lessons are still being learned on storm recovery.

Jacques Thibodeaux, the new director of the The Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, told the House Select Committee on Homeland Security on Tuesday that while Louisiana emergency managers are good at the “prepare and respond” part of their jobs, the tough part is the “recovery on the back side of it.”

Hurricane preparedness this season is even more important as the National Hurricane Center released a dire forecast predicting a busy 2024 Atlantic Hurricane Season.

Meteorologists predict 17 to 25 named storms (tropical storm strength or above), with four to seven major hurricanes of Category 3 strength or greater. An average season has 14 named storms and four major hurricanes.

Major hurricanes Laura and Ida struck the state in 2020 and 2021 respectively.

Thibodeaux said about 94% of his office’s budget (about $2.8 billion) comes from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Thibodeaux also told the committee that the Louisiana Business Emergency Operations Center will create a preferred vendor list for storm recovery services.

“If you get a bad contractor, it costs you time and money,” Thibodeaux said. “What we’re going to do is allow these OEP directors to rate these contractors and, if a contractor is giving a parish or a municipality a bad product, we’re going to recommend other contractors.”

OEP is an acronym for Office of Emergency Preparedness.

Among the topics discussed was the reluctance of some residents to evacuate despite living in a flood zone. Rep. Beryl Amedée, R-Gray, said the potential financial burden of evacuating a warned area might be a “huge” reason why residents often don’t leave.

Storms and floods aren’t the only potential disasters looming for the Pelican State.

Thibodeaux also highlighted the agency’s newly restructured cyber program, which he says the key issue is that it has never fully embraced the emergency management cycle of preparation, response and recovery and has been in permanent response mode.

“The barrage is continuous and it is serious,” Thibodeaux said about cyberattacks. “What it has done is force Louisiana to evolve a cyber program out of nothing.”

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