Thursday, May 11, 2017

It’s not enough to prepare for a hurricane

Your game plan must address other types of severe weather
Author: Kenyatta Esters, Emergency Preparedness Manager

When people think of severe weather in Louisiana, many immediately picture a menacing hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico taking aim for our state. It is true that Louisiana has experienced many tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes.  However, as many of us have witnessed recently, Louisiana also experiences catastrophic flooding, severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, heat waves, and even ice storms.

Although many in our state are seasoned storm survivors, no two storms are alike, and each type of weather hazard presents a unique challenge for our communities. This is especially true for medically vulnerable populations in our state who may reside in medical or nursing facilities, have limited mobility, or rely on electricity-dependent medical equipment. 

Every corner of our state prepares for and responds to severe weather events and the Louisiana Department of Health plays a significant role in these efforts. Our mission, “To protect and promote health” is evident in our agency’s tireless efforts to protect the health of Louisiana’s citizens before, during and after natural disasters.

Our employees serve in preparedness or response roles at sites such as medical needs shelters and regional and state emergency operations centers.  Our environmental health staff ensure that our food and water is safe after storms. Our teams within the Office of Behavioral Health’s coordinate our Louisiana Spirit Crisis Counseling Program that offers outreach and emotional support to disaster survivors across the state. 

Our emergency preparedness staff continuously train with local, state and federal partners to ensure that the state is ready to assist with the public health and medical needs of Louisiana’s citizens when disasters occur.   As a part of planning and training efforts, we routinely collaborate with the National Weather Service to develop and conduct training exercises that test our severe weather plans. There are four different National Weather Service offices that provide forecasts and severe weather warnings for Louisiana in the following cities:   Shreveport,  Jackson, MS,  Lake Charles, and  New Orleans/Baton Rouge

The department has been recognized as a Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador by the New Orleans/Baton Rouge National Weather Service Office. The Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador initiative is an effort to recognize agencies and organizations who are improving the nation’s readiness against extreme weather, water and climate events. 
As a Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador, the department will continue to work with the National Weather Service and other public health and safety partners to plan for severe weather. We will also collaborate to promote disaster preparedness and community resilience.  

This week is National Hurricane Preparedness Week and the Louisiana Department of Health encourages you to prepare. Make personal preparations to ensure that you and your loved ones will stay safe and healthy if tropical weather threatens. 

Here are a few things to consider:
·         Determine your risk:  Depending on where you live, you may experience different types of tropical weather hazards.  Storm impacts such as inland flooding can affect communities hundreds of miles away from the coast.
·       Review and update your emergency plan:  Make sure that you include specific plans for family members who are elderly or may have medical conditions.  Don’t forget about your pets!
·      Review insurance policies for your home and car: Remember that standard homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flooding, and there is a 30 day waiting period for obtaining flood insurance.

For additional resources, visit

For more information on the Weather Ready Nation Ambassador initiative, visit:

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