State Attorneys General Switch Focus to Disaster Preparation and Response

Baton Rouge and other parts of southern Louisiana saw major flooding in 2016.

Baton Rouge and other parts of southern Louisiana saw major flooding in 2016. Shutterstock

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

“It runs part and parcel with having the state have more control and more responsibility in implementing effective response,” said Louisiana AG Jeff Landry of his new National Association of Attorneys General initiative.

The National Association of Attorneys General’s new president announced Monday that active crisis management will be the focus of his year-long tenure.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry’s presidential initiative encompasses disaster preparation and response to “devastating acts of God and man-made catastrophes”—mass shootings, natural disasters and cyberattacks among them.

NAAG will facilitate the exchange of ideas and insights between field experts and attorneys general through panels and workshops

“AGs end up being the tip of the spear in dealing with disasters,” Landry told Route Fifty by phone.

Louisiana is no stranger to natural disasters, having been hit by two destructive hurricanes in 2005 and two consecutive years of particularly severe flooding in 2015 and 2016. Founded in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the National Center for Disaster Fraud is based in Baton Rouge.

After Katrina, NAAG put out “Preparing for the Unexpected: A Disaster Preparedness Manual and Resource Guide for AG Offices,” which Landry aims to update by the end of his term.

“The one thing you don’t want to do is you don’t want to learn on the job when it comes to crisis management and natural disasters,” Landry said. “When you’re an elected official, you don’t want to learn on the go.”

The biggest challenge AGs face following major disasters is the displacement of large numbers of people, especially seniors, and the resulting health care issues that arise, Landry said.

Landry recalled a senior couple needing rescue off the roof of a flooded home. In those cases, people aren’t likely to have their medication with them or their prescriptions may expire while they’re displaced.

“As the chief legal officer, we’re responsible for ensuring consumer protection,” Landry said.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry (Courtesy Louisiana Attorney General's Office)

Under President Trump, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has moved toward “federally supported, state managed, locally executed” disaster recovery, and Landry said his initiative is in line with that thinking.

“It runs part and parcel with having the state have more control and more responsibility in implementing effective response,” Landry said.

The NAAG initiative also includes possible cyber attacks on electric grids and smart infrastructure, which is increasingly being relied upon.

“We’re in this highly technological world,” Landry said. “Are we using technology in the most efficient, effective manner to address crises?”

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Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor for Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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