City of Central Lessons Learned: What to do before a disaster

Disaster Planning

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Yellow lines down the middle of a flooded country road.

The City of Central, Louisiana, although well-equipped to handle severe flooding, was forced to navigate unexpected obstacles in the wake of the historic August 2016 flooding. The historic storm dumped 24 inches of rainfall in a 48-hour period, isolating the City and flooding 60 percent of the City’s single-family homes.

Reflecting on their experiences, City of Central stakeholders share their insight on several disaster planning measures they wish they had taken prior to the storm.

Build relationships now.

  • Having strong, positive relationships already in place with state elected officials and with neighboring counties, cities and towns can make a difference in an emergency.
  • If you don’t know your local officials, find a reason to meet them, and keep the relationship going. You’ll create a stronger bond now, not when you’re asking for help under duress.

Create memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with city and school buildings for use as shelters

  • MOUs authorize use of a facility in advance, and describe equipment, roles and responsibilities, and conditions for returning the facility to its original condition. Working these details out in advance of a disaster makes the process smoother.
  • Identify multiple buildings in various locations to allow for flexibility if a shelter is damaged in the disaster.

Evaluate staffing needs.

  • Plan for around-the-clock staffing and identify personnel to be on-call if primary staff are affected by the disaster.
  • Clearly define and communicate staffing roles and ensure that staff are trained and ready for their responsibilities as soon as disaster strikes.
  • If possible, plan for employee shelters and nearby childcare to allow staff to work without worrying about their own families.

Have a policy in place to define how market value is determined.

  • Home market values become critical when FEMA makes substantially damaged determinations. Communities that define and document how market value is determined in advance will save themselves and their residents from additional hassle during this process.

Learn about the FEMA and HUD CDBG-DR documentation requirements in advance.

  • During disaster planning, develop checklists of documentation requirements for funding sources like FEMA and CDBG-DR assistance programs. Make sure staff are briefed on them beforehand, and ensure that staff in the field have a copy to take with them.
  • Communities must begin documenting efforts during and immediately following a disaster, often when staff are overwhelmed and focused on more pressing immediate issues.


See more tips from Central’s 2016 flood experience on disaster response and what to do after a disaster, and read IBTS’s full case study on the City of Central’s August 2016 flooding.


IBTS has performed municipal services for the City of Central since 2011 and worked alongside City staff to navigate the disaster response and recovery processes. Learn more about IBTS’s unique public nonprofit partnership with the City of Central here.

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