More than two million people packed up their lives and evacuated their homes fearing the wrath of Hurricane Gustav, bearing down on the Louisiana coast at the end of August.

While forecasters were plotting the storm’s course, the federal government was ramping up its response and activating agencies that might be needed to help in wake of a natural disaster. Since Hurricane Katrina there have been many meetings, training, assigning responsibilities and coordination of the federal, state and local level response to hurricanes and natural disasters. FEMA and other federal agencies took the lessons learned during Katrina and applied them to Gustav with a more proactive approach to the impending disaster.

ATF was designated by the Department of Justice to coordinate the ESF–13 function. ESF–13 is part of the National Response Plan and involves coordinating the federal law enforcement response for public safety and security. Now agencies under the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice are all put on stand-by and readied for deployment when a storm could make a possible landfall in the United States.

Jeff Stirling, the ASAC of the ATF Cleveland Office, said “We weren’t sure how the events would play out with this storm, so we wanted to make sure we were prepared for everything.”

ATF’s Special Operations Division set up a CIMST (Critical Incident Management Support Team) and ESF–13 National Coordination Center at HQs to coordinate requests from FEMA HQs and the Joint Field Office (JFO) set up in Baton Rouge, La. The pre-deployment of approximately 400 Federal law enforcement personnel was completed. There are approximately 70 CBP, 170 ICE, 100 ATF, and 70 USMS personnel staged throughout the affected area. In addition, ATF and other federal agencies provided personnel to staff the JFO’s ESF-13 desk. ATF personnel also staff the ESF–13 National Response Coordination Center in Washington and regional centers in Atlanta and Denton, Texas.

As other hurricanes and tropical storms approach the United States, ATF is responding and staffing additional regional centers as they stand up. We are prepared as best one can be to respond as called upon.