Iowa, Louisiana is a town of approximately 3,000 residents located in Calcasieu Parish. The community was settled in the mid-19th century after the railroad that cut through the region brought Midwestern settlers (from Iowa, Kansas and Illinois), as well as French Canadians (“Cajuns”) and other Old Spanish Trail travelers. These settlers were attracted to the prairie land for rice farming, cattle raising and, later, oil fields. These industries continue to be a vital part of Iowa’s economy, along with retail commerce and cultural heritage tourism.
In recent years, Iowa has been hit repeatedly with severe flooding events, including the aftereffects of Hurricane Rita. Despite its location – about 50 miles away from the Louisiana Coast – the town has sought ways to more effectively prepare for and respond to future hazards such as flooding and wind damage from large storm events. Over the past several months, the Iowa team sponsored floodplain management and emergency response trainings for municipal staff and increased their communications and coordination procedures to improve pre- and post-disaster response activities. These activities have decreased multiple threats, including the possible derailment of train cars carrying toxic and harmful materials through the downtown area.
- Iowa collaborated with regional entities, including the Calcasieu Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (OHSEP), to prepare for future hazards, including community evacuation needs. They established an evacuation service for Iowa residents without private transportation to a facility in Shreveport, LA, free of charge. They are also developing evacuation plans for residents with specialized medical care, pet needs, and those with criminal backgrounds.
- Iowa upgraded its radio equipment to allow enhanced communication with other community and parish emergency services.
- The town developed the capacity to administer early re-entry badges for key municipal employees and critical businesses after disasters. City staff are working with local businesses to improve their ability to restore business activities in the days immediately following a severe storm or crisis event.
- Iowa increased public engagement and outreach efforts by sponsoring two resiliency luncheons for local area business leaders and a resiliency dinner for first responders (including police, fire and ambulance personnel).
- Town staff recently participated in the first convening of a Community Rating System Users Group for Southwest Louisiana. They hope to pursue certification as an extension of their community resilience index implementation activities.
- The town is dependent on local utilities to restore critical services, such as electricity, post-disaster. Municipal leadership is increasing its ability to influence the speed at which these operations are restored.
- Extensive natural gas investments in the region are dramatically changing the economy and development patterns in the region. The town needs to accommodate these expected changes in its planning process.