Oklahoma Emergency Managers Plan For Louisiana Disasters

Monday, September 28th 2009, 6:14 pm
By: News On 6

By Emory Bryan, The News On 6

UNDATED -- Oklahoma's emergency managers are planning for a disaster in Louisiana. They'll be called on to help if a hurricane leads to a mass evacuation.

In just about any disaster, Oklahomans respond, doing everything from cooking meals to using chainsaws to clear out damaged trees. That response won't change, but now there's a new focus on helping the state of Louisiana during a hurricane. The plan is to have Oklahoma run a large shelter for evacuees in Shreveport.

"We'd really like to try to keep these victims as close to home as possible," said Albert Ashwood, Oklahoma Emergency Management.

The state's top emergency manager says the new agreement with Louisiana benefits Oklahoma as well.

"And it would keep us from having to on a moment's notice having to find some place that can house that many people," said Albert Ashwood.

During Hurricane Katrina, hundreds of evacuees were bused to Camp Gruber. More were sent to Oklahoma City and smaller shelters statewide. While they were welcomed here, many wanted to be closer to home. The new plan would keep gulf coast hurricane evacuees in their own state.

"There's a greater efficiency of scale and they have a much greater comfort level if we can do that close to their home, they don't feel quite as displaced, quite as put out of their home or whatever the case may be," said David Barnes, Oklahoma Co. Emergency Management.

As in all disasters, the public emergency response would incorporate groups like Oklahoma Baptists, who can respond to clean out houses, cut down trees and cook meals with mobile kitchens.

"And the faith-based groups and the humanitarian groups, our role will basically be to be the caterers from them," said Sam Porter, Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief.

Just the Oklahoma Baptists have 4,000 trained volunteers. The faith and charity groups would provide much of the manpower, while professional emergency managers would help oversee it. Louisiana's local officials could then spend their time handling the disaster.