Disaster response remains big challenge for Louisiana, Homeland Security director says

Staff Report

Louisiana has improved its approach to disaster management, but that does not mean it has gotten easier, according to the state's chief emergency preparedness official.

The challenges from natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic have made the past 2 and a half years the most challenging in state’s recent history, according to Casey Tingle, Director of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

On the heels of two of the most destructive hurricanes – Laura and Ida – in 2020 and 2021, residents and government agencies alike need to act diligently as the state heads into its busiest part hurricane season, he told the Press Club of Baton Rouge at its weekly luncheon Monday.

Casey Tingle, Director of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness

"With so much for the state and our agency to deal with, and recovery always being complicated, there’s no two ways to deal with that,” Tingle said.

Ongoing supply shortages have lingered. In addition, federal bureaucracy relegates much of the relief process to a lethargic pace. Despite those struggles, the state has taken a unique approach to disaster response, Tingle said.

Part of it comes from the level of partnership from neighboring states, while much of it involves partnerships with the faith-based community, non-profit organizations and the private sector.

But even the most organized efforts cannot fully ease the impact of a major disaster, he said.

Much of southwestern Louisiana remains in disrepair after Hurricane Laura in 2020.

Meanwhile, much of Louisiana’s southeast coastal region is far from recovered after Hurricane Ida, the third worst storm ever to hit the Louisiana coast.

“In February and March, we totaled 5,000 mobile housing units and 15,000 residents in the most impacted areas,” Tingle said. “Federal, local, and state partnerships have helped with the temporary shelter process. It’s never sufficient to meet the most challenging needs, but it’s a helpful step forward.”

The state issued 5,000 meals and 6 million bottles of water after Hurricane Ida.

After Ida, 26 other states sent staff and teams to help the state in its time of need, Tingle said.

Much of that help included the dispatch of state responders to Louisiana. 

The issues with FEMA pose some of the biggest challenges after a disaster, Tingle said.

“FEMA always has money before, during and after for the necessary recovery work,” he said. “But largescale housing requires congressional appropriation, which takes a lot longer.

“There’s a disconnection between the feds and the states,” he said. “It’s a big challenge when dealing with displaced families.”

Some were first responders, while others helped in the Emergency Operations Center. 

Tingle urges residents to use the calm period of the season to stock up on water and nonperishables.

He also recommended residents examine their home insurance policy.

In addition, they should keep in mind that flood insurance policies do not take effect until 30 days after the policy after purchase of the policy.