From Hurricanes Gloria To Katrina; Prepare, Connect, Get Trained
The first article I ever wrote was about Hurricane Gloria during the 1985 Atlantic hurricane season.
The “Storm of the Century” Category 4 storm reached peak winds of 145 mph and caused $900 million in damage.
As an intrepid reporter for my high school newspaper, The Birch Bark, I wrote, “Hurricane Gloria possessed the energy of an atomic bomb and left over one million people without electrical power for days…. Gloria reached the metropolitan area at approximately 12:00 noon, but New York City was prepared. Windows everywhere were taped, and the World Trade Center was evacuated.”
I grew up in a Greenwich Village high-rise apartment, 34 stories in the sky. We had unobstructed views of the city and our 40 large picture windows were vulnerable to Gloria’s wrath. I was terrified, and I convinced my parents to let me place big duct tape Xs across each pane. It was the first time I taped up windows, but it wasn’t the last. After moving down South it’s been a skill I’ve had to practice from June 1 through November 30 over the years.
While I wasn’t alive for Cat. 4 Hurricane Betsy in 1965 that caused $1.43 billion in damage, I was around for Cat. 5 Hurricane Katrina in 2005 that caused $125 billion in damage. I dutifully taped up my 108 (small) windowpanes in my French Quarter apartment, and luckily none of them broke, but preparing for a hurricane is a lot more complex than breaking out the duct tape. According to Volunteer Louisiana, individuals, families and businesses need to get prepared, get connected and get trained.
“Effective disaster response starts with community readiness,” said Judd Jeansonne, executive director of Volunteer Louisiana. “Engaged citizens and volunteers are absolutely critical to those efforts.”
Volunteer Louisiana manages 17 AmeriCorps State programs, promotes volunteerism and coordinates spontaneous, unaffiliated volunteers in times of disaster. It is supported by grants from the Corporation for National and Community Service, as well as local, private and state funding, and it operates within the Office of the Louisiana Lieutenant Governor. According to Volunteer Louisiana’s 2018 Annual Report, nearly 1 million Louisianans volunteered last year to improve their communities and support others in need.
The next Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training session takes place Saturday, June 22, at 8022 Hwy 23, in Belle Chasse, LA. This one-day refresher course is open to those who have already completed Basic CERT Training, and are already members of the Plaquemines Parish CERT team. Participants will learn about basic disaster response skills, fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization and disaster medical operations.
“One of the most important assets we have in Louisiana is our people and their willingness to pitch in and help their neighbors in a time of crisis,” said Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser. “It truly says a lot about the Louisiana spirit. Through Volunteer Louisiana, we want to get people connected with the right training. This will help in the coordination of volunteer efforts when federal assistance is not available.”
Volunteer Louisiana advises:
- Make sure you have a family evacuation and communications plan, update your emergency supply kit, sign up for alerts from your local emergency management office and monitor local news for hurricane watches and warnings in your area.
- Get connected with volunteer organizations before an event occurs. Many nonprofit organizations utilize volunteers before, during and after disasters, relying on their ready-trained volunteer corps to deploy as soon as they are needed. Through affiliating and training with nonprofits, volunteers can be essential players in their community’s response and recovery.
- Through Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training, you can assist local and parish emergency responders in times of disaster. Volunteer Louisiana, in collaboration with the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOSHEP), is also supporting CERT Training throughout the state. CERT is a program that educates volunteers in disaster readiness to prepare for hazards that may impact their areas. Basic CERT trains individuals in disaster response skills… so volunteers can assist first responders and/ or care for themselves and others during a disaster-related event. Specialized training for advanced CERT teams is also available.
Waste Management, a leading provider of comprehensive waste management services in North America, believes doing everything they can to prepare before and return to service after a crisis is what being a good community partner is all about.
“Following a powerful hurricane, one of the most essential needs for a community to begin recovery is the reliable return of its most vital services,” said Tricia Farace, Waste Management community relations manager – Gulf Coast Area. “Our value to a community is not always apparent unless collection stops. That’s why we spend a lot of time in the weeks and months prior to the start of hurricane season focusing within our company on annual hurricane preparation and recovery planning.”
Waste Management has issued the following public advisories to residents and businesses about preparation before and after a storm:
- Before a storm secure garbage and recycling containers. Place empty containers in a secure location away from open spaces.
- Stop all yard maintenance and tree trimming activities when there is a named storm with a predicted landfall.
- Bundle and tie down all loose trash such as tree limbs, wood planks or building and roof tiles. Place these materials in a location where debris cannot become hazardous to homes and automobiles in high winds.
- Waste Management will continue to collect household garbage and recycling materials in the neighborhoods it serves according to designated schedules until a hurricane warning is issued.
- After a storm passes, separate normal household garbage such as food refuse, diapers and regular household waste from storm debris caused by high winds, hail and rain. Storm debris including tree limbs, carpet and carpet padding, aluminum and wood fencing, and household appliances should be placed curbside in separate piles, apart from the household garbage and trash.
- Separating normal household waste from storm debris will allow Waste Management employees to collect household garbage more quickly and safely, and help prevent odors and safety hazards that would be created by mixing household garbage with storm debris. Separation is also necessary to allow Waste Management to collect normal household waste and to permit other firms to collect storm debris in accordance with arrangements made by local municipalities and/ or the Parish or County with contractors independent from Waste Management.
- Waste Management will resume curbside residential collection and commercial collections as soon as it is designated to be safe to do so, on those streets that are passable. The company will expand its routes to additional areas as more streets become clear of debris and other impediments.
“After a significant storm impacts a community, there are few more welcome signs of things getting back to normal than seeing our people doing their jobs,” said Farace. “Once public safety is restored, the rapid recovery of a community begins with the startup of routine services. While contractors from other companies are contracted to pick up storm debris, we focus on restoring regular commercial collection services and household curbside collection.”