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DCFS Partners Launch State's First Neighborhood Emergency Preparedness Program Five Years after Hurricane Katrina

As the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaches, the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has launched the Louisiana Neighborhood Emergency Preparedness Program (LNEPP) in the New Orleans neighborhoods of Holly Grove and Central City.

LNEPP, the state's first citizen-led emergency preparedness effort, is a collaboration of DCFS, the Louisiana State Citizen Corps, Trinity Christian Community, the Mahalia Jackson Early Childhood and Family Learning Center, and the Early Childhood and Family Learning Foundation.

"DCFS is the state agency responsible for Emergency Support Function 6 - Mass care and Shelter, and it is part of our mission to provide safe refuge during disasters," said DCFS Secretary Ruth Johnson. "This collaborative effort between emergency preparedness agencies, community organizations and neighborhoods will empower residents to respond to an emergency at the neighborhood level thereby fostering self-sufficiency and making demand on response organizations more manageable during a disaster."

The effort in Holly Grove and Central City aims to reach a community of more than 5,000 households and serve as a model for other communities and neighborhoods to begin their own citizen-led emergency preparedness efforts. At least 30 block captains and neighborhood residents will be trained to assist their neighbors during times of emergency. Louisiana State Citizens Corps and DCFS will conduct emergency workshops and community outreach and build neighborhood capacity.

The program launched with a three-day training session sponsored by the Louisiana State Citizen Corps at the Trinity Christian Community Cypress Trace Apartments' Community Center. The focus of the training was disaster preparedness, psychology and simulation, team organization, medical operations, damage assessment, fire suppression and light search and rescue.

LNEPP is modeled after a similar program in Florida and builds on neighborhood watch programs and other neighborhood associations to reach out and empower, prepare and educate neighborhoods to increase preparedness in the event of an emergency. The program will foster relationships among neighbors and between neighborhoods and emergency management and government. Training and other resources provided at the neighborhood level will engage residents to help neighbors evacuate, assess neighborhood needs and provide first aid and other services in the event of an emergency.

Major components of the program include identifying neighborhood equipment resources and special skills, providing educational materials and trainings, and developing a neighborhood preparedness toolkit. Future trainings will include information on emergency preparedness planning.

Following the initial launch of the program, the partners will continue to work with the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness to support the LNEPP efforts statewide. The partners plan to make information and resources available online for other neighborhoods to replicate the LNEPP model in their own communities.

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