Hurricane Katrina

Coast Guard, FEMA team up this season

GULFPORT - The U.S. Coast Guard has been working with its colleagues within Homeland Security to make sure everyone is ready for this year's hurricane season.

Admiral Thad Allen, commander of the Coast Guard, said Friday members of his group are teaming with FEMA, and people from both agencies will be stationed in states from Texas to the northeast.

"In my 35 years with the Coast Guard, we have never been so prepared for a hurricane season," said Allen, who met with local officials and media Friday. "I think we're significantly further along this year than we were last year."

Flag officers from the service have paired with FEMA and have trained together to learn about evacuations, how funds flow from the federal government, and so on. Allen said the teams have practiced their plans with simulated disasters so they know how things need to be done when a hurricane is threatening any area.

"Being in the same agency as FEMA has created great synergies between the two of us," he said. "But we're not here to pre-empt the local effort. We realize that first response is the responsibility of local governments."

The Coast Guard in Gulfport is housed in temporary buildings between Jones Park and the port. Allen said the equipment in those buildings can be transferred to other facilities in the event of a storm.

Other tools, such as generators, are being stored with the National Guard to protect them from harm.

"This is still a very vulnerable section of the country," he said. "We have 100,000 people in travel trailers. The Coast Guard has to understand evacuation plans and think about the gaps and how to help."