from the Federal Emergency Management Regional (FEMA) Newsletter - October 2013
On October 15-18, 2013, the State of Washington’s Coalition of Recovery Planners met with federal, state and local officials in Louisiana to discuss the successful long-term recovery operations that took place in St. John the Baptist Parish. Following Hurricane Isaac, the parish implemented the National Disaster Recovery Framework (NDRF) for the first time in Louisiana.
The field trip was a collaborative effort between the State of Washington, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) National Disaster Recovery Support (NDRS) group, the State of Louisiana Office of Community Development and representatives from St. John the Baptist and Terrebonne parishes. Representatives with the State of Washington found it difficult to locate real world examples while developing their recovery planning initiatives. The trip was used to develop insight into key components of the parish’s recovery operations. These components included: organization, community planning and capacity building, housing, economic recovery, mitigation, public assistance, funds, health and social services, infrastructure systems and natural and cultural impacts.
An important aspect of Washington’s planning initiatives is community engagement. The recovery planners are looking toward the model used in St. John the Baptist Parish as a best practice for engaging the community. They are specifically examining ways to garner interest from a wide demographic, but they are tasked with engaging a much larger population than that of the parish. While St. John the Baptist Parish has a population of 46,000, the State of Washington’s planning process includes a population of over 800,000 residents.
“Although there were a number of key players engaged in the parish’s recovery efforts, community members were truly champions in the process,” said Recovery Coordinator Casey Broom of Pierce County in Washington. “We plan on finding champions in our community and using them.”
The parish created an all-volunteer citizen’s advisory committee and held open houses to get input from community members. Outreach events were used to engage underserved populations. Residents were able to voice their opinion by voting on and prioritizing planned community projects.
Broom’s team met with Parish President Natalie Robottom, Communications Leads Paige Braud and Baileigh Rebowe, Utilities Director Virgil Rayneri, Public Works Director Brian Nunes, long term recovery groups and other recovery leaders. The process of pre-planning is helping the state stay several steps ahead of future disasters.
“We’ve formed a coalition of recovery planners in Washington State,” said Broom. “The planning process is forming, moving and we’re building the needed relationships to support our state.”
Broom and her team were able to see the impacts that NDRF can have on a community once activated at full capacity. NDRS representatives Paula Miller and Mark Allemond explained how the Recovery Support Functions of the framework helped augment long-term recovery in the parish by providing local officials and residents with the tools to create a viable Community Recovery Strategy.
A Louisiana Resource Guide featuring nearly 900 resources was provided to attendees and offered an example of the continuing support being provided to the parish by NDRS.
“One of the great things about the trip was the amount of praise that the NDRS group received—not only from the state, but from the locals as well,” said Broom.
Picture (St. John the Baptist Parish, La., October 17—Recovery planners from the State of Washington meet with federal, state and local officials from St. John the Baptist Parish at an all-volunteer citizen’s advisory committee. The recovery operations of the parish are guiding officials from the State of Washington as they plan ahead for future disasters.)