Northwest Louisiana Joins with Oklahoma for Hurricane Relief

By Adria Goins – bio|email

SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) – The 2010 Hurricane Season is underway and Wednesday, Homeland Security of Northwest Louisiana took a major step in making sure the agency had reinforcements in the event a storm brings evacuees to Shreveport.

Louisiana's recent major hurricanes forced thousands of evacuees out of their homes and into shelters, even as far away as Oklahoma. Emergency officials from the Sooner State realized they could do more by coming into northwest Louisiana, instead of bringing evacuees out of state.

"We started evaluating how we can do this better. This is kind of an aftermath of those reviews," said James Dalton, Oklahoma Disaster Task Force.

Oklahoma started a relationship that would lend several hundred extra pairs of hands to the relief effort. Teams spent the past two days at the Fair Grounds finalizing a strategy plan that would help with medical, security, and food distribution.

"They are going to reinforce our local resources and it's going to be a tremendous asset to us," said John Fulco, Caddo-Bossier Homeland Security Director of Operations.

The partnership with Oklahoma is one of the reasons why Homeland Security in this area has started to lead the state in innovative ideas for hurricane relief. In fact, for the past two years the department has been integrating scannable arm bracelets that track the shelter locations of each and every evacuee. The group from Oklahoma wore the bands as part of their trip to Shreveport to try to help the team understand every process well before the storm strikes.

"Pre-planning is critical. When you're caring for that many people, and you're bringing that much of a work force in, you've got to have a plan," said Dalton. "If you don't have a plan you're going to have chaos. In a natural disaster you're going to have a lot of chaos as it is, so we're trying all that we can."

Oklahoma will head to northwest Louisiana once the state calls for an evacuation. They will head back Wednesday and finalize the last of the details for the partnership in the next two weeks. 

©2009 KSLA-TV. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.