PINEVILLE- As Hurricane Isaac’s flood waters seeped into Louisiana on Monday, Camp Beauregard in upstate Louisiana seemed a very long way from home.
Answering the Call
On a calm Sunday afternoon, the first responders were called into action to respond to the storm. This was the stage for the Louisiana National Guard’s Joint Operations Command, the control room through which all National Guard personnel responding to the storm would be processed over the next week. The Emergency Management Assistance Compact center offered a bird’s eye view of the storm and the actions taken to mitigate the risk for the people of Louisiana.
The center accounts for compacts made between all 50 states and the U.S. controlled DC, Guam, Puerto Rico, and The Virgin Islands. These compacts are made to ensure that support will be shared between states if a disaster overwhelms a particular region of the country.
“It’s a delicate balance,” said Sergeant Christopher Dudley, “We have to secure assets that are near enough to the disaster to help us in time, but out of the storm’s path at the same time. We can’t ask a transportation company to drive 2000 miles from Washington state, but we can’t ask an affected state like Mississippi to spare too many assets either.”
Aviation assets, communications equipment, medical supplies, and manpower are listed on a nationwide chart of availability and tracked from the time a crisis begins to the time it concludes. Secondary and alternate needs are designated in case a primary out-of-state resource is deployed or otherwise engaged. The Joint Operations Centers in each state were contacted at the onset of the storm to confirm the availability of their assets.
It was a call to action that thousands of guardsmen received simultaneously. The Emergency Management Assistance Center was designated to track emergency responders from aviation assets across the nation for specified missions such as search and rescue. On Wednesday, the Louisiana National Guard was called up to 100% of the force, drastically increasing the likelihood that outside assets would be called upon.
“When you do a full call up, it doesn’t necessarily mean every single soldier the Louisiana National Guard,” said Captain Barry Self. “Some are police officers in the civilian world that are protecting their specific cities. Others may be deployed or out of the country. It’s important to partner with other states just in case the fighting force you have listed isn’t there.”
The Louisiana National Guard forces were spread all over the state, mostly to the devastated southeastern region where pods of supplies were distributed after thorough search-and-rescue sweeps were conducted. Privately contracted trucks drove to 27 pod locations across the southern parishes of Louisiana Wednesday night and passed out supplies on Thursday.
Only one out-of-state military asset was called into the fight, a pair of HH-60 Blackhawk helicopters from the Florida National Guard that were designated to fly search-and-rescue missions in the southern portion of Plaquemines Parish. The Louisiana National Guard has maintained an activated presence for the clean-up process and is continuously monitoring assistance needs throughout the state.