Baton Rouge – As part of its ongoing effort to ensure optimal preparedness for a natural or man-made disaster, the Department of Health today held a symposium and plan review with employees and partners from throughout the state.  Included in the review were federal partners from the United States Department of Health and Human Services. 

 Two experts in emergency management participated in the review.  Dr. John Agwunobi, immediate past assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Craig Fugate, director of emergency management for the State of Florida, worked as a team to review Louisiana’s plan and provide feedback to the state. 

 While with the federal government, Agwunobi was responsible for the nation’s pandemic flu response plan and he supervised the U.S. Surgeon General and the public health service corps.  Currently, he is the president of the Health Services Division for Wal-Mart USA.

 As head of Florida’s emergency management, Fugate is responsible for preparing and implementing a statewide Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan, and his division routinely conducts extensive exercises to test state and county emergency response capabilities.  Fugate led Florida’s response through eight major hurricanes. 

 Levine said that even though hurricane planning and emergency response is an ongoing effort at LDH, today’s meeting served as a kick-off to the agency’s preparations for the 2008 hurricane season.

 “Just as we encourage families to always be diligent in having their own emergency plan, and testing their plan, so too must the state,” said Levine.  “We have some of the best disaster preparedness leaders in the nation right here in Louisiana, and we want our neighbors in Louisiana to know we are constantly reviewing our plan so we can be ready when the need arises.  The most important thing government is expected to do is protect its citizens in times of disaster.  Our plans must be sound, they must be reviewed and they must be tested,” he added.

 Agwunobi also noted that Louisiana could use the lessons learned during Katrina and Rita help the rest of the country prepare for disasters.  He said Louisiana is in a unique position to be able to share its knowledge, expertise and experience to help other states with their planning.

 Levine reiterated the importance of each Louisiana family having a disaster plan, including a plan for pandemic flu.  “There is simply no excuse for a family to not have a clear plan for what to do in an emergency.  If they do not have a plan, we encourage them to go to our Web site ( for guidance on developing a plan.   The worst possible time to develop a plan is in the midst of a disaster. Now is the time, and families should not delay.” 

 Click here for a direct link to the Family Readiness Guide.

 The meeting today featured a review of the plans that existed in Louisiana prior to the 2005 storms, the experiences and lessons learned from Katrina and Rita, a discussion of current plans and a review of DHH’s major responsibilities in response to a disaster, including special needs shelters, the staging of ambulances, and evacuation planning for hospitals and nursing homes.