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River Parishes teaming for improved emergency response

By Monique Roth
L’Observateur

LAPLACE — St. John the Baptist Parish joined 19 other parishes, including St. James and St. Charles, in a Multi-Parish Emergency Mutual Aid and Assistance Agreement this month when the Parish Council unanimously agreed with St. John Parish President Natalie Robottom the partnership would benefit parish residents.

Robottom said the agreement will put a plan in place to better acquire backup resources and assistance from other municipalities during emergencies.

“This agreement was drafted by parish presidents in Louisiana Parishes Against Coastal Erosion to allow cooperating parishes to access FEMA reimbursements,” Robottom said, adding the partnership will allow participating parishes to apply for state and federal reimbursements when assistance in provided.

“Years of experience responding to disasters highlighted the need to pre-plan responses with our regional partners,” Robottom said. “Signing this agreement establishes the mechanism to seek reimbursement for assistance across parish lines.”

She said St. John Parish has always worked with other parishes in a helping relationship during disasters, “but this agreement makes it easier to seek reimbursements for our efforts.”

St. Charles Parish Senior Emergency Coordinator Jason Tastet said the Mutual Aid Agreement allows for the parishes involved to assist or request assistance from the other included parishes during times of emergency.

“A potential scenario that could take place is if one of the parishes has localized flooding and needs additional flood fighting resources,” Tastet said, adding state law requires parishes exhaust local, then regional resources first before they look to the state for assistance.

“This agreement formalizes the process and is critical when seeking FEMA reimbursement for declared disasters,” Tastet said.

St. James Parish President Timmy Roussel said “during devastating times, any extra aid a parish can possibly muster up amounts to a gigantic, heavily needed resource.”

The River Parishes joined the parishes of Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Calcasieu, Cameron, Vermilion, St. Martin, Iberia, St. Mary, Ascension, LaFourche, Terrebonne, Assumption, Livingston and Tangipahoa in the collaboration.