The Fire Department assumes tactical and strategic command of all city operations during large scale incidents like hurricanes and ice storms. By planning for and responding to these incidents we maintain a close relationship with Parish and State emergency managers. These relationships are critical during times of extreme emergencies and long term incidents.

Disaster plans are written based on assumptions and probabilities that come from historical data. They include the assumed behavior of the general public, as well as capabilities of the agencies that are going to be included in an emergency response. Yet with all the scientific methods to minimize the adverse impact of large scale disasters, we are still dealing with individuals and their individual personalities. And with all the material addressing preparedness, it's easy to lose sight of the main thing. We're going to look at who expects what from local government and the citizens of Southwest Louisiana. In this article, we'll show how the connections are made from the president's declaration of a disaster to the citizen's role in dealing one.

Response, Recovery, Mitigation & Preparedness outline the life cycle of managing disasters. At the onset of a disaster, local agencies will respond, assess, and scale their resources up to what is necessary to manage it. Once the situation is stabilized, the recovery process begins. Mitigation will take place just after that where measures are taken to minimize the impact of a recurrence of the same type of event. And finally preparedness; by far, the most important factor in managing disasters, is how well prepared you understand your role at game time. The national incident management system expects that government leadership is aware that they are always in one of these phases and are working to improve their methods.

When we're not dealing with a disaster we should be planning for one. In the incident management framework, there are 16 emergency support functions that address everything necessary to support operations during disasters. The best way to exercise these support functions is to practice them under normal conditions. By working out these support functions under normal circumstances, you raise the chances that your methods work during crises time. This is where the new planning initiatives are impacting business as usual.

During The City of Sulphur's response to Rita, the fire department employed the incident command system to citywide operations. The results were recognized in Baton Rouge as well as Washington because of the rapid response, mitigation & recovery delivered to the city. At a time when billions of dollars were being poured into response efforts across the Gulf coast: the City of Sulphur's final figures chalked up some of the lowest cost per citizen figures recorded. From steps taken by the city's administration, responder competence, and citizen awareness; the community as a whole gets credited. Likewise we're expected to pursue excellence which means asking ourselves what we're going to do better next time.

There are roughly 21000 people in the City of Sulphur while there are only about 220 first responders counting public safety, public works & health care. A 100:1 ratio highlights the importance of cooperation from the public. An adequately prepared public is critical to the overall success of how well disasters can be managed by skilled first responders. Just as an entire community can reap the reward of proper planning they can also sew failure by not adequately preparing for the future. For this reason, the City of Sulphur maintains high compliance standards against ever changing building codes in an effort to minimize future risk. Also, our responders far exceed the federal competency requirements that outline who can do what during large scale disasters. It's a proactive belief that before high standards can be enforced they need to demonstrated. This is a balanced approach to a critical subject in a region where the threat of a future disaster is exceptionally high.

During future disasters, the federal government expects the state have its compliance measures in place. The state in turn will expect the same from parish governments. Finally, Calcasieu Parish and the rest of those higher governments expect the City of Sulphur to understand, practice, and attempt to institutionalize the incident command system into its business process. The City of Sulphur is fortunate to have an aggressive administration that seeks to excel with regards to emergency response. Our successes will come not by grading ourselves next to our neighbors but by taking a close look at our potential. This is the attitude that will successfully carry us through the next disaster with the least possible damage.