Lessons learned from hurricanes Katrina and Rita have paved the way for improved coordination among public agencies and private businesses to help communities better prepare for, and recover from, disasters, say officials who have coordinated hurricane preparedness forums planned Monday in Lafayette and Lake Charles.
The forums will focus on hurricane preparedness and new storm forecast technologies. They are organized by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s National Incident Management Systems and Advanced Technologies Institute and U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany.
“We want people to put preparedness for the hurricane season on their front burner and let them know about the resources available to them,” said Ramesh Kolluru, vice president of research at UL-Lafayette and founding director of the NIMSAT Institute.
The hurricane season begins June 1, and researchers at Colorado State University have called for a below-average hurricane season, with seven named storms and only three of those becoming hurricanes with speeds of 74 mph or greater. The researchers’ forecast comes ahead of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast, which is expected in late May.
During the forums, representatives from NIMSAT, the National Weather Service and NOAA will discuss the impact of prior hurricanes, new technology and processes for forecasting storms, and hurricane preparation and response.
“It has been almost 10 years since hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated our coastline and cost thousands of Louisianans their lives,” Boustany, R-Lafayette, said in a news release. “The lessons learned in the aftermath of these storms can save lives. I encourage my friends and neighbors to attend these forums to learn how we can safeguard our families and homes against catastrophic hurricanes this year.”
The storms of 2005 exemplified the need for improved coordination of resources and led to the development of the Louisiana Business Emergency Operations Center, which links resources of businesses and volunteer organizations.
“As we mark the 10-year anniversary of Katrina and Rita, we’ll talk about what we’ve learned from those disasters and what we’ve put in place, like the Louisiana Business Emergency Operations Center that FEMA recognizes as a national model for public-private partnerships,” Kolluru said.
The university created its NIMSAT Institute in 2007, and its team of researchers works on technologies that can be used to improve preparedness, response and recovery to disasters. Earlier this year, NIMSAT received a National Science Foundation grant to create technology that supports high-definition, video-based collaboration among first responders.
“The failure of communication infrastructure is a serious issue during disasters. The application provides a research solution to make critical information available to first responders and incident commanders during and after an incident,” officials said in the news release that announced the grant award in February.
In recent years, the institute also has received grants to build the Louisiana All-Hazard Information Portal as a one-stop data drop for information related to disasters. The application was designed to educate property owners about the potential for flooding and other risks, and how to mitigate those risks.
As part of its mission, the NIMSAT Institute creates public-private partnerships to respond to and mitigate disasters. In 2013, NIMSAT Institute partnered with Acadian Ambulance’s Safety Management Systems to provide training to disaster response personnel.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.