After a summer defined by debate about the role of those charged with our public safety, this week’s rain and flooding across south Louisiana reminded everyone of the good work that first responders do in helping keep communities safe.

Police, fire and public works departments across the region sprang into action to answer record-breaking flooding as a huge, wet weather system drenched the state. We’re not out of the woods yet, but the efforts of authorities at the state and local level helped keep losses to a minimum.

In Louisiana, of course, we’ve had lots of experience in dealing with weather events, especially at the bottom of the season. The late-summer arrival of hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Gustav showed the state’s residents what bad weather can do, underscoring the value of emergency preparedness. That planning probably proved invaluable as flooding of biblical proportions visited the region this week.

This week’s weather also brought home the importance of personal emergency planning. After a relatively quiet summer so far regarding hurricanes and tropical storms, this mammoth downpour offered a potent demonstration of Mother Nature’s destructive force. For householders without basic emergency supplies and evacuation plans, this week should be a wake-up call. Now is the time to get those preparations in place.

For school officials in south Louisiana, this week’s weather couldn’t have come at a worse time, arriving just as campuses were resuming class for the new school year. But most school officials made the right call in keeping students home, and educators have experience with these kinds of weather-related disruptions in this part of the world, too.

Sadly, this week’s weather affirmed the importance of flood insurance, something many residents forego. Historically high waters have apparently damaged many homes that have not seen flooding before. It’s a terrible example of a sobering reality: Even in places that are usually high and dry, all it takes is one event to wreak extensive damage.

Our hearts and prayers are with our suffering south Louisiana friends and neighbors today. No disaster is ever welcome, but if there’s any silver lining in this week’s dark clouds, it’s our renewed sense that when nature doles out its worst, we’re all in this together.

After a season of division, that unity is, and always will be, our greatest source of strength.