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The Lafayette Parish Council is scheduled to vote at its meeting Tuesday evening on the creation of two new positions to coordinate the parish’s response to emergency situations such as hurricanes, extreme heat or terrorist threats.

The Director of Civil Protection, with the support of a Civil Protection Officer, would act as a coordinator between first responders, local authorities and the public in the event of an emergency and would also provide guidance on emergency preparedness.

Mayor Monique Boulet did not mince her words in her assessment of the current state of emergency preparedness: “We have no plan.”

The proposal to create a dedicated emergency preparedness office comes at the start of what is expected to be an intense hurricane season, during which Beryl, the earliest Category 5 storm in the country’s history, hit the small Caribbean island of Carriacou and caused massive destruction.

The imminent threat of storms this time of year played a role in the timing of the proposal, according to Boulet. “I was afraid that if we did it after hurricane season, we would be unprepared,” the mayor said.

Currently, emergency response and preparation are coordinated by the Lafayette Parish Communications District’s 9-1-1 Department, but Boulet said a separate department is needed to bring the parish’s emergency response up to national standards.

“We have the size and substance we need,” Boulet said of Lafayette Parish. “We need to think about it differently.”

Lafayette’s current emergency response ordinance hasn’t been updated since 1977 and was primarily designed to respond to bomb threats, according to Boulet. The proposal calls for completely repealing the existing ordinance in favor of a new one that would create the two leadership and management positions and bring the city’s system in line with state law.

Boulet said one of the reasons the previous municipality’s leadership may have failed to update the city’s response system is because Lafayette has been spared the worst weather impacts, particularly when it comes to hurricanes, compared to other areas of the state.

“We were not tested,” Boulet noted.


Bayou State Pawn & Jewelry on Johnston Street in Lafayette, LA, will be offering hurricane preparedness gear for sale on July 2, 2024.

Lafayette’s first responders have formed a strong line of defense, said Boulet and her chief of staff, Christina Dayries, but a central coordination point is needed to ensure the safety and preparation of residents.

“We simply lack real, professional emergency preparedness,” says Dayries, who has worked in emergency preparedness and public safety her entire career and most recently served as deputy director and chief of staff in the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

In addition to hiring staff to coordinate and plan, plans to overhaul the community system include implementing a new local notification system, creating shelter and evacuation plans, and an assessment of the readiness of local infrastructure. If the proposal is approved, Boulet said the administration plans to release shelter and evacuation plans later this hurricane season.

According to the mayor, preliminary discussions with potential candidates have given her confidence that qualified candidates for the position will be found quickly once the application period opens. “We have some really good prospects who specialize in superstar roles,” Boulet said. Despite her extensive experience in the field, Dayries said she would not throw her hat in the ring.

The annual cost of the positions would be $223,000, with the majority going to salaries and benefits for the two new full-time employees and about $36,000 for operating costs. Part of this cost will be covered by a GOHSEP grant of about $77,000, with the remainder coming from local funds.

If approved, the regulation is expected to be finally adopted on July 16. From that point on, the positions can be opened for applications.

In the meantime, Boulet urged residents to create personal evacuation plans, especially those who live in more vulnerable structures like mobile homes or who have elderly family members or other loved ones with special needs.

Because of the feeling of relative safety, Acadiana residents are less likely to think about evacuation and plan for it, Boulet stressed. But especially in light of the forecasts for this hurricane season, that assessment needs to be reconsidered, she noted. “That’s what we need to do now: individuals need to plan for their own families.”