After being pummeled by Hurricane Katrina – the worst recorded natural disaster in the United States in terms of deaths and destruction – in 2005, officials in Louisiana took steps to enhance the effectiveness of the state's continuity of operations plans to be optimally prepared should similar conditions manifest in the future.
In an effort to test the state's overall existing emergency response plan, officials from the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) launched a three-day initiative earlier this week in Alexandria, New Orleans and Baton Rouge to determine if the state would be prepared to effectively distribute medical supplies and support during a disaster, reports The Town Talk, a local Alexandria news source.
While New Orleans and Baton Rouge would be the primary sites for supply distribution, the article suggests the importance of all state regions contributing to relief efforts, as Alexandria would serve as a crucial communications hub during a disaster.
According to the report, the exercise was deployed with a fake disaster notification from the Health Alert Network, which automatically triggers the emergency operation center. Crucial information on the state of the disaster was then provided in addition to the type of supplies to be distributed.
Echoing the vital nature of preparedness exercises, J.T. Lane of DHH told The Town Talk, "It is critical that we are able to quickly distribute life-saving medicine during a health emergency. Every second counts. This is a valuable opportunity to ensure that our plans work by conducting a full-scale exercise with our federal, state and local partners."
For other municipalities with less explicit protocols regarding emergency response, it would be wise to consult with a continuity of operations consultant. With experience providing disaster preparedness solutions, this kind of professional can conduct table-top exercises to evaluate the efficacy of a municipality's current plan and make suggestions for improvement. Additionally, a disaster consultant can help municipalities secure fully functional hot sites in the case that primary relief facilities are not usable.