May 25, 2012

This article was written by Amy Wold and published in The Advocate on May 16, 2012. To read the original story, click here.

After hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated coastal Louisiana in 2005, state and federal officials took a closer look at what it would take to make communities in harm’s way more resilient to disasters.

“We knew we had to come back in a different way than before,” said Patrick Forbes, executive director of the disaster recovery unit in the state Office of Community Development, on Tuesday during the “Building a Resilient Louisiana: Hazard-Resistant Design and Construction” workshop at LSU.

The event was organized by several LSU departments and the Louisiana Sea Grant College Program in part to create networks and find “what are the real opportunities to make things better,” said Carol Friedland, an assistant professor in the department of construction management and industrial engineering at LSU.

After the two hurricanes, the federal government, through a variety of agencies from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, provided funding for a number of recovery efforts in the state, Forbes said.

One of those ongoing programs is the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program from FEMA, which will put $650 million toward helping homeowners with elevations, Forbes said.

FEMA granted an additional $389.6 million last fall, which is being distributed to parishes affected by the two hurricanes for additional work, he said.

One of the lessons state officials learned after the 2005 hurricane season is local governments know their priorities for rebuilding better than state or federal agencies, Forbes said.

The process may be slower at the local level, but the end product is much more enduring, he said.

Other speakers talked about the need to get planners who work on disaster risk-reducing plans to work with the people who build and develop the affected communities.

The workshop continues Wednesday to discuss insurance in an area of risk and how to address future challenges of reducing risk in areas vulnerable to flooding and other disasters.

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