How Louisiana's Emergency Response System Works with Federal Agencies During an Emergency

When a disaster strikes, the Louisiana State Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) is activated to ensure the efficient and timely delivery of necessary assistance to affected communities. This plan identifies state emergency support functions (ESF) as the structure for organizing and coordinating state resources by area of function. These functions are classified according to the type of support or resource provided or managed in the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and its subcomponent, the Incident Command System (ICS). In addition to the ESFs identified within the NIMS structure, Louisiana has included Military Support as an ESF. The Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness at Calcasieu Parish is responsible for preparing for, responding to, and managing an event, as well as supporting and rebuilding after it.

In accordance with the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and the National Response Plan (NRP), federal and state agencies create their command and coordination structures to support local command and coordination structures during an emergency. The Department of Defense (DOD) has the capacity to play a critical role in the nation's response to catastrophic events. Trained volunteers from member organizations of the National Active Disaster Volunteer Organizations (NVOAD), the United States Red Cross, the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) and the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), as well as untrained volunteers from across the United States, deployed in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) also play a critical role in response and recovery efforts. The Emergency Support Function 6 (ESF), annex to the NRP, assigns responsibility for the provision of emergency human services to FEMA. The storm weakened 911 emergency call centers and disrupted local emergency services.

To improve communication with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and parishes for a more coordinated emergency response, Louisiana has included military support such as the Louisiana ESF. Soon after Katrina made landfall, state and local authorities understood that the devastation was severe, but because of the destruction of infrastructure and response capacities, they lacked the ability to communicate with each other and coordinate the response. The process of assigning missions to national response plans proved to be too bureaucratic to support the response to a disaster. Moreover, the response guided by the PNR did not take into account the need to coordinate efforts to protect and restore critical infrastructure in all Emergency Support Functions (ESF).

Mariah Samudio
Mariah Samudio

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