T’bonne businesses consider post-hurricane recovery plan

"Rhythms on the River" (Morgan City)
May 10, 2010
Louisiana voters get it when it comes to state’s spending
May 12, 2010
"Rhythms on the River" (Morgan City)
May 10, 2010
Louisiana voters get it when it comes to state’s spending
May 12, 2010

As storms enter the Gulf of Mexico, south Louisianans work at a frantic pace to prepare for the devastation.

Residents may buy supplies like canned food, water, flashlights and candles if they choose to ride out the hurricane at home. Or maybe they will elect to evacuate and have to decide which valuables are important enough to take with them.

In such a frenzy, the anticipation of a hurricane makes it very easy to forget to prepare for an equally important part of the hurricane process – the recovery period.

Major General Hunt Downer wants to change that trend of thought in Terrebonne Parish.

He spoke to the Houma-Terrebonne Chamber of Commerce at this past Monday’s monthly luncheon, urging the chamber to get more involved with the hurricane recovery procedure.

“As a chamber, you all individually and collectively have a role,” said Downer. “Maybe the chamber could have a representative that could identify within the chamber those businesses that can have goods and services that can support the first responders in bringing back the citizens.”

Downer said Terrebonne Parish officials have already begun plans for a business Emergency Operations Center (EOC), which will be used in times of disaster recovery.

“That is where representatives of the business community participate to identify businesses and resources that can respond to the needs of the community and support the emergency operations and the first responders,” said Downer. “It is to let businesses that are critical and vital have a seat as one of the emergency support functions.”

Terrebonne Parish Public Safety Director Ralph Mitchell said plans for a parish-wide business EOC are in early stages of development, but he hopes a semi-formalized plan can be finalized by the end of this hurricane season.

“It’s a process that’s gone on since day one, that we’ve always had people in private industry that we could call and rely upon,” said Mitchell. “But this actually is more formalizing that process where you actually get people to commit ahead of time – what they can do, what they can provide and where they’re going to be.”

Mitchell said hurricane recovery plans are continuously improving, but officials can only plan for the conditions of previous storms, because hurricane conditions are constantly changing.

“We have our past experiences to build on, and we know what we needed and what we were short of in past disasters,” said Mitchell. “So we would work toward filling those gaps, and then look at what other states and other people are doing to see what things we might not have thought of in the last storm.”

Mitchell added Terrebonne Parish businesses having an EOC alongside the government’s EOC could speed up recovery time.

“We’re seeing the need for businesses to get back up and running in a quick and timely manner and provide those services to the residents,” said Mitchell. “Government quite frankly has a hard time providing to the large numbers of people.”

Mitchell praised Terrebonne Economic Development Authority (TEDA) for its work after Hurricanes Gustav and Ike

“They know what their roles and missions are,” said Mitchell. “They protect their resources during the time of the storm, and then they quickly get back into the storm and set up an open business.”

Mitchell said Terrebonne businesses’ EOC will be modeled very much like TEDA’s current recovery plan.

Maj. Gen. Hunt Downer implored the Houma-Terrebonne Chamber of Commerce to join in plans for a business Emergency Operations Center to help businesses recover faster. * Photo by RICHARD FISCHER