The Department of Health is helping to host more than 300 federal and state emergency preparedness employees in Alexandria this week for the federal government's 2011 National Field Deployment Training.

The training highlights the critical partnership between state, federal and local resources during a crisis event. It focuses on how to establish and operate a Federal Medical Station (FMS), which are shelters of last resort, designed for people who have needs that prohibit them from staying in a general population shelter, but do not require hospitalization. FMS sites are an extension of Louisiana's Medical Special Needs Shelter (MSNS) Program, and are activated only when the demand exceeds the state's capacity. Should Louisiana have a full-coastal or southeast evacuation due to a hurricane, the pre-identified FMS sites would be needed to help the state augment its MSNS state-shelter capacity.

The Veterans Administration chose Louisiana as this year's training site because of the state's expertise in medical sheltering and its state-of-the-art Mega-Shelter in Alexandria. Several Louisiana Department of Health experts are serving as instructors at this week's training, including Region VI Medical Director Dr. David Holcombe, who also serves as the Incident Commander for the state's MSNS when it is activated.

"We all know as we get closer to August, the threats to our state from hurricane season magnify," said Dr. Holcombe. "As we work with our federal partners to ensure our plans are in place, it's also a good time for everyone to make sure you have your own game plan. This is particularly true for people with special health needs and their families. While we prepare for these worst case scenarios, no one wants to have a loved one in any kind of shelter if it can be avoided, so we urge everyone today to know what they'll do in an evacuation and to be ready."

Representatives from the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, United States Public Health Service, Veterans Health Administration and FEMA and Louisiana's Department of Health and Department of Children and Family Services are taking part in the three days of training.

The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visit For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow LDH's blog, Twitter account and Facebook.