Thursday, March 30, 2006

You Don’t Have to Go Home

But you can’t stay at the Superdome for the next hurricane:
If a major hurricane threatens New Orleans this year, the city will no longer provide a "shelter of last resort" as it did last year when the Superdome was opened for people who chose to stay or were unable to leave.

"Our goal is to ensure that we create an environment where it makes more sense to leave rather than stay," Ebbert said.
I didn’t see the use of the Superdome as a shelter of last resort as one of our failures during Katrina. If anything, because people stayed at the Superdome and not at their houses, more lives were saved.

Many people did not die the day of the storm. Many died waiting to be rescued in the days after trapped by the floods or were not rescued in time. The rescue effort was already hampered by inadequate planning, lack of resources, and the enormity and complexity of the operation. If the 20,000 people at the Superdome had stayed at their houses, it would have added to the problems, and no doubt would have added to the death toll.

Katrina has taught us where not to be during a hurricane. But, she has also taught us that an evacuation plan with no destination plan or repopulation plan is not a good plan.

The DHS and FEMA were in town this week to talk about a plan. Any discussion of evacuation must end with a destination. An article in the T-P asks, “By rail or bus?” If that is a question the local and state governments are asking, I hope there isn’t a one-way ticket involved.

The government’s performance up to this point has been a de facto one-way ticket for a lot of residents. Contraflow effectively moved the mobile population out before the storm. Although less effective, the rescue operation got people out after the storm. But, there hasn’t been a comparable all-out effort to get people back in.

Now that we know what happens when the levees break, it’s a good idea not to use the Superdome as a shelter of last resort. It served its purpose in the last hurricane. But if the city takes this option away, they need to replace it with an effective evacuation plan that doesn’t need a last resort.

1 comment:

bayoustjohndavid said...

You're absolutely right about the destination part. I finally gave up on making the point in comments on even liberal blogs, look at the buses turned away fom the Astrodome, even after the scenes at the convention center were broadcast. If New Orleanians had evacuation fatigue after Ivan and Georges and the rest of the country has Katrina fatigue now, just imagine when other cities need to start opening their shelters whenever there's a threat.