During the COVID-19 crisis, the Louisiana Business Emergency Operations Center has secured 2 million face masks for grocery store workers, and a large amount of hand sanitizer for distribution to health care personnel.
Coordinating the donations is indicative of the role the LA BEOC serves. The Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness activates the emergency operations center to help sustain businesses, fill supply chains and stimulate the economy during a crisis or natural disaster.
The LA BEOC opened in 2010. It’s located in Abdalla Hall at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Research Park. The center has about 2,200 members who network among each other for supplies and services.
“We connect those who need resources with providers during response and recovery from an emergency or disaster,” explained Christophe DeGuelle, LA BEOC director.
Through its Web-based platform, LA BEOC serves as a conduit for information-sharing among businesses, state officials, nonprofits, economic development organizations and industry associations. It also dispenses information about loans and financial assistance programs.
The center tracks down supplies that can range from fuel and lumber to groceries and medical supplies, depending on the emergency. DeGuelle, for example, coordinated the HanesBrands clothing company’s face mask donation and the Procter & Gamble Co.’s hand sanitizer donation.
The masks were distributed to Albertsons and Rouses Markets grocery stores. The sanitizer was shipped to a warehouse in New Orleans, and will be distributed in and around the city.
DeGuelle relies on experience the LA BEOC gained during hurricanes and floods that has prepared the center to help Louisiana deal with the effects of COVID-19.
“State’s that have practice dealing with disasters – and unfortunately that’s us – do a little bit better in emergencies. We have connections to the national supply chain, contacts at FEMA, and in the private sector, to name a few. Those relationships really pay off for us,” he said.
The hand sanitizer, for instance, was delivered to Louisiana via Healthcare Ready, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., that helps fill supply chains.
“They came to us first because we have worked together before. They weren’t thinking about North Dakota or Iowa, because they don’t routinely deal with those states,” DeGuelle said.
The LA BEOC is a partnership between Louisiana Economic Development, the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, and UL Lafayette’s National Incident Management Systems & Advanced Technologies Institute.