Responding to major hurricanes is one of the major challenges for emergency services on the U.S. Pacific Coast. Hurricane Katrina left more than 300,000 people homeless in 2005, and many social service organizations and individuals have negatively assessed the level of preparedness and response to this disaster. The City of Baton Rouge Emergency Services has developed a five-step detailed response plan in the event of a major hurricane (3+) to reduce risks to civilians and city infrastructure.
Hurricane Definition and Classification
A tropical depression is a cluster of storms organized around a central circulation with 38 mph (miles per hour) or less surface wind speeds. A tropical cyclone is a cluster of smaller storms with substantial circular rotation and sustained surface winds of 39-73 mph (“Hurricane response plan”, 2019). Hurricane is a large tropical storm with 74 mph or greater winds, moving counterclockwise. In addition to intense winds, hurricanes accompany heavy rains, flooding along the coast, flooding inland, and tornadoes.
Hurricane Definition and Classification (Table)
The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is a 1 to 5 rating based on a hurricane’s sustained wind speed. This scale estimates potential property damage. Hurricanes reaching Category 3 and higher are considered major hurricanes because of their potential for significant loss of life and damage. Category 1 and 2 storms are still dangerous and require preventative measures. During category three-plus hurricanes, well-built concrete houses begin to collapse. (Category five means that almost all the homes at the disaster’s epicenter are destroyed). Trees can be uprooted over large areas. Depending on the hurricane’s strength, water and power lines can be beaten by the typhoon so badly that it can take months to rebuild. The accompanying surge in coastal regions and the flooding of residential areas should also not be forgotten.
Components of a comprehensive response plan
The basic components that the state emergency service needs to implement in the event of a possible hurricane are as follows: timely notification of the population of a potential threat, creation of suitable conditions for the evacuation of residents from hazardous areas, provision of necessary shelter, food, water and medical care for the displaced and as a preventive measure. The government services should train people to be as effective as possible in case of a threat of disaster and provide recovery after the natural disaster. The utilities need to engage all possible means, which are discussed in the following slides of the presentation.
Notification. Local resources
For the public to get quick and important information about an approaching hurricane, it is necessary to interact with the weather networks in Louisiana. WWL WeatherNet in New Orleans (61 weather stations) and WBRZ WeatherNet (45 stations) are the largest. They are owned by broadcasters WWL-TV and WBRZ-TV, which will provide the population and city services with disaster information in case of need.
Mobile Emergency app
The City of Baton Rouge Emergency Services is ready to implement an automated public notification system with a mobile application and develop requirements for the final product. For this purpose, the city management needs to hold an open tender and sign a contract with one of the IT companies offering the most favorable terms. The slide shows those companies that develop and support custom software, including those that specialize in mobile development.
Notification. Using NOAA data
The city’s emergency services actively cooperate with federal agencies to get the clearest and timeliest information on hurricane activity. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a federal agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is involved in various meteorological studies, including hurricane activity (“NOAA predicts above-normal 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season”, 2022). NOAA generates forecasts based on the data it collects so that services can prepare for possible emergencies more fundamentally. The slide shows graphs and photos highlighting hurricane activity for the 2022 season. They show that this season there may be an increased activity of winds and tropical cyclones in the Gulf of Mexico.
The city’s emergency services can set up a training ground on their premises to conduct drills and teach a plan of action in preparation for a possible disaster. Rescue workers also hold drills at schools, company offices, and hospitals. They include tactical medicine and courses on how to set up a shelter in case of isolation. And what each person should pack in an emergency bag. Management creates an evacuation plan with assembly points where people without personal vehicles can gather to leave in case of danger.
Education. Using Red Cross Guide
If a person does not have access to face-to-face training, the American Red Cross has developed an entirely useful article on what to do if you or your family are caught in the middle of a hurricane. This material has important and detailed information on how to stay connected, fortify your home against wind and flooding, build the necessary supplies and take care of yourself and your loved ones (“Hurricane safety”, 2022). The American Red Cross has even commissioned an app that displays the nearest shelters on a map. The U.S. Department of Emergency Management actively cooperates with the Red Cross and strongly advises using its recommendations.
The city of Baton Rouge is in an area classified by NOAA as potentially dangerous, so the region’s residents are subject to mandatory evacuation. Destinations for evacuees are pre-prepared refugee camps or the homes of relatives or friends outside the danger zone. The Emergency Services Logistics Department will develop special routes for residents who can leave with their vehicles to reduce traffic congestion and avoid congestion (“Find your evacuation zone”, 2022). These routes will be marked with special signs. During evacuations, city television and radio, and loudspeakers will operate to instruct residents on how to proceed. For those who do not wish to evacuate, NOAA has developed a map showing shelters and places where you can get sandbags to strengthen the landscape.
Evacuation Plan. Safe zones
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have not listed Tennessee and Arkansas as hurricane zones. Since they are closest to Louisiana, it is here that the main hubs for displaced persons should be located (“Find your evacuation zone”, 2022). The cities of Nashville, Little Rock, and Memphis are the most significant and largest in these two states, so their private and utility structures will help organize the lives of the displaced. The City of Baton Rouge Emergency Management actively collaborates with its Tennessee and Arkansas counterparts on natural disasters.
Evacuation. Local recourses
Since the efforts of the emergency services alone will not be enough to evacuate, other resources at the city, state, or federal government level must be brought in. To begin with, it is worth analyzing the local agencies that need to be involved in the hurricane response process. These are local police, transportation (public and private), and medical personnel. Medical personnel must assist in transporting people with low mobility and providing medical care on-site. Police should escort convoys with refugees to avoid confusion and keep the assembly points in order. Utility vehicles such as transport buses, school buses, and private taxis can be used by emergency services to support evacuations.
Evacuation. Additional recourses
In particularly serious cases, resolving issues with local resources alone is impossible. Therefore, the help of the federal government and those of other parts of the state must be brought in. Including the police, rescue, and medical resources mentioned above, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Louisiana National Guard can also play an important role. The Corps of Engineers has the necessary skills to deal with floods. The Guard, in coordination with rescue and law enforcement officials, will help ensure that evacuations are coordinated.
Working with refugees. Settlement
When people have been successfully evacuated, relocation camps should be set up for those unable to stay with friends or relatives. School buildings, where people can be accommodated in gyms, are excellent places to set up such camps. For this purpose, the emergency services will negotiate with the education department and city authorities of those cities where Baton Rouge residents will be evacuated. A second good option is to involve private hotel businesses whose representatives can provide temporary housing for people. Since hurricane season occurs during summer, evacuees can be housed in campsites and tent cities. Campgrounds can be provided by the U.S. Army, and camping tents by private businesses.
Providing evacuees with necessities
It is not enough to resettle the evacuated people. Refugees need to be provided with food, water, and medical care. The cities in which the displaced have been accommodated mobilize resources to meet these needs, including a local health system. Private restaurant businesses and utilities need to be engaged to fulfill people’s needs for hot food and water. Restaurants, cafes, fast food chains such as Subway or McDonald’s, and school and factory canteens should be included in the refugee assistance plan. Food outlets should be set up in evacuation centers, and containers of purified water should be brought in. Red Cross volunteers are often a great help in this initiative, and involving them in the process is important. The wonderful volunteer organization World Central Kitchen, founded by José Andrés, provides hot meals for people whose homes have been affected by natural disasters, so their help could also be invaluable.
Unfortunately, such powerful natural disasters as hurricanes cause enormous damage to the city’s infrastructure. Since Louisiana has a high chance of high winds and subsequent flooding, more than 80 percent of the city could be underwater, which would naturally cause severe damage to housing, social and special infrastructure. The city’s financial resources may not be sufficient to rebuild the city after the cataclysm is over. Economists of the City Council, in cooperation with representatives of the Department of Emergencies, will develop a recovery plan. This plan will include sources of funding for this project: donations from large and medium-sized businesses in the country and neighboring states and money from the federal government. The abovementioned Corps of Engineers can help rebuild critical infrastructures like bridges or roads. In such difficult cases, the local economy must also be supported by giving Baton Rouge companies the resources to rebuild themselves.
Find your evacuation zone. Web.
Hurricane response plan 2019. (2019). EOC Oversight Cmte.