Congressional Briefing - March 14, 2011

Partners in Preparedness: How Governments Can Leverage the Strengths of NGOs in Disaster Preparedness, Response, and Recovery

rescue activities post-Katrina, photo courtesy of Win Henderson/FEMA


Joie Acosta Behavioral Scientist, RAND Corporation


Jan Epstein The Allstate Foundation


Ann Williamson President and CEO, Louisiana Association of Nonprofit Organizations

Thad Allen Senior Fellow, The RAND Corporation; National Incident Commander, Deepwater Horizon Unified Command; Admiral, United States Coast Guard (retired)


Monday, March 14, 2011


2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.


2168 Rayburn, the Gold Room
Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.


About the Program

On the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the RAND Gulf States Policy Institute, in partnership with the Louisiana Association of Nonprofit Organizations and with sponsorship from The Allstate Foundation, held a community conference that focused on the role of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in disaster response and recovery, helping displaced and returning populations, and post-disaster mental health services and psychological recovery. The goal of the conference was to formulate action plans and policy recommendations.

This briefing presents those plans and recommendations, including the need to

  • define and formalize NGO roles and responsibilities
  • create guidance on allocation of resources
  • increase community capacity to deliver seamless services through NGO partnerships
  • improve information sharing
  • pursue a research agenda that focuses on evidence-based implementation.

About the Speakers

Jan Epstein is executive director of The Allstate Foundation. She is responsible for the day-to-day management of the foundation, which is funded with contributions from subsidiaries of The Allstate Corporation. Through partnerships with nonprofit organizations across the country, the foundation brings the relationships, reputation, and resources of Allstate to support innovative and lasting solutions that enhance people's well-being and prosperity. The Allstate Foundation helps prepare and protect communities from life's uncertainties, including catastrophes.

Joie Acosta is a behavioral scientist at the RAND Corporation and a community and cultural psychologist. She specializes in community-based participatory research and evaluation of issues related to the behavioral health consequences of disaster, community resilience, and long-term recovery. She has worked with the Red Cross and local service providers to develop recommendations for involving NGOs in disaster response and recovery. In the past year, Acosta has led an assessment of the Disaster Case Management Program in Louisiana. Acosta received her Ph.D. from the University of Hawai'i.

Ann Williamson is president and chief executive officer of the Louisiana Association of Nonprofit Organizations (LANO), a statewide member organization charged with supporting and representing the nonprofit sector and its diverse constituency. From January 2004 to September 2008, she served as secretary of the Louisiana Department of Social Services. Facing repeated and devastating storms during her tenure, Williamson guided the Department's efforts to sustain its core services while undertaking the largest mass evacuations in U.S. history.

Admiral Thad Allen is a senior fellow at the RAND Corporation and former Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard. Allen had a long and accomplished career with the Coast Guard, serving as the 23rd Commandant from 2006 until 2010. During his tenure, he successfully implemented reforms to modernize the Coast Guard. Allen led the agency's responses to Hurricane Katrina, the Haitian earthquake, and, most recently, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill clean-up efforts.

About RAND

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND focuses on the issues that matter most, such as health, education, national security, international affairs, law and business, the environment, and more. As a nonpartisan organization, RAND operates independent of political and commercial pressures. We serve the public interest by helping lawmakers reach informed decisions on the nation's pressing challenges. Visit us online at

About the RAND Gulf States Policy Institute

RAND created the Gulf States Policy Institute in 2005 to support hurricane recovery and long-term economic development in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Today, RAND Gulf States provides objective analysis to federal, state, and local leaders in support of evidence-based policymaking and the well-being of individuals throughout the Gulf States region. With offices in New Orleans, Louisiana, and Jackson, Mississippi, RAND Gulf States is dedicated to answering the region's toughest questions related to a wide range of issues that include coastal protection and restoration, health care, and workforce development. For more information contact Sally Sleeper at or visit us online at

Further Inquiries

For further information about this event, contact the Office of Congressional Relations at or call (703) 413-1100, ext. 5395.