Federal, State And Local Officials Participate In Louisiana Symposium On Recovery And Resiliency

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Participants share lessons learned from August flood and discuss disaster preparedness for future

LAFAYETTE, La. — With a focus on lessons learned from Louisiana’s August 2016 flood, officials from federal, state and local agencies shared insights recently at the inaugural Louisiana Symposium on Recovery and Resilience. Participants gathered Dec. 8 at the Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise, or LITE, Center in Lafayette for the event developed by Louisiana’s Office of Community Development-Disaster Recovery Unit, Louisiana Economic Development and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The symposium’s goals were to ensure strong coordination at all levels of government and to identify opportunities for improving disaster response before, during and after future events. 

Offering an opportunity for local leaders to ask questions and express concerns about flooding in their localities, the more than 150 participants gained firsthand information provided by disaster recovery leadership. The symposium’s featured speaker, Gov. John Bel Edwards, informed the crowd about his efforts to obtain more federal funding for the recovery that is being guided by his Restore Louisiana Task Force and administered by OCD-DRU. 

In Louisiana, we are keenly aware of the need to be prepared for natural disasters and that we must endeavor to build our state back stronger than before,” Gov. Edwards said. “This symposium represented a committed statewide effort to collaborate across parish lines and invest in a more resilient future for all Louisianans.” 

 

In addition to the address by Gov. Edwards, the symposium featured remarks from representatives of the OCD-Disaster Recovery Unit, FEMA and the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. Other speakers and panelists included parish representatives; officials from state, federal and local agencies; and keynote speaker Jane Cage, who managed the Joplin Citizens Advisory Recovery Team in Joplin, Missouri, following that city’s May 2011 tornado disaster.

“It’s perfectly clear that Louisiana will be dealing with natural disasters on a regular basis,” said OCD-DRU Executive Director Pat Forbes. “It’s imperative that we respond to these disasters not with a business-as-usual approach, but with an eye to the future, so our communities can have confidence in our ability to bounce back stronger each time. This symposium provided us with a chance to make sure we’re all working together to develop the plans and processes necessary for faster recovery and greater resilience in the future.”

The symposium began with an overview of how Louisiana aligned with the FEMA-established National Disaster Recovery Framework, which resulted in the Governor’s Restore Louisiana Task Force. The symposium also included seven breakout sessions that covered a variety of topics, including Community Planning and Capacity Building; the Economics of Recovery; Health and Social Services; Planning and Designing Resilient Communities and Neighborhoods; Public Facilities and Infrastructure; Natural and Cultural Resources for Recovery of a Floodplain; and Disaster Recovery Through Nonprofits.

“The primary focus of the symposium was to ensure that all pertinent federal, state and local departments are coordinating throughout the disaster planning and recovery process,” said LED Community Competitiveness Director Skip Smart. “We saw tremendous efforts from our federal, state and local partners – efforts that were based on lessons learned from previous disasters. But so long as there are communities that need to recover or better mitigate the effects of a natural disaster, we will still need to improve our collaboration and preparation skills in advance of future disasters. This symposium will help us do precisely that.”

“The Governor’s Restore Louisiana Task Force, established on the structure of the National Disaster Recovery Framework, serves as an excellent model for any state facing long-term disaster recovery challenge,” said FEMA’s Ryan Rockabrand, deputy federal disaster recovery coordinator. “This symposium is a great example of how this structure and the state brought together all stakeholders – federal, state and local governments, businesses, nonprofits and academia – to work collectively as Louisiana moves forward with long-term recovery efforts.” 

In addition to the symposium, the state Office of Community Development has scheduled public meetings in the regions impacted by the 2016 floods. The meetings are free, open to the public, and will provide residents with an opportunity to view and comment on the available homeowner, renter and small business assistance programs for flood recovery. See below for a list of upcoming meetings:

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