Tuesday, September 06, 2005

You're on your own!


This is from a story we just filed for tomorrow's Daily News.

"You're responsible for your safety, and you should be responsible for the person next to you," local Red Cross executive director Kay Wilkins explained to the Times-Picayune just six weeks ago. "If you have some room to get that person out of town, the Red Cross will have a space for that person outside the area. We can help you. But we don't have the transportation.”

Ironically, the Red Cross has run a network of shelters in New Orleans in the event of hurricane warnings. But it decided several years ago not to open them for a Category 3 or stronger storm that it was more important to get people out of the below-sea-level area - despite the lack of any organized system for transporting them.

Indeed, as Katrina bore down on New Orleans last weekend, Mayor Ray Nagin marshalled a fleet of city buses - not to take the city’s poor out of town but to the large shelter at the Superdome, where civil order would fall apart as the week progressed.

“Keep in mind, a hurricane, a Cat 5, with high winds, is most likely will knock out all electricity in the city, and, therefore, the Superdome is not going to be a very comfortable place at some point in time,” Nagin warned on Sunday. “So we're encouraging everyone to leave.”

“It’s almost as if the planning stopped at the flooding,” said Craig E. Colton, a geography professor at Louisiana State University, wondering as many have at the lack of foresight.

By the way, here (from Nexis -- no link) is more of the Times-Picayune story from July 24 this year about the city's DVD warning. The story begins: "City, state and federal emergency officials are preparing to give the poorest of New Orleans' poor a historically blunt message: In the event of a major hurricane, you're on your own."

It says lower down:

Their message will be distributed on hundreds of DVDs across the city. The DVDs' basic get-out-of-town message applies to all audiences, but the it is especially targeted to scores of churches and other groups heavily concentrated in Central City and other vulnerable, low-income neighborhoods, said the Rev. Marshall Truehill, head of Total Community Action.

"The primary message is that each person is primarily responsible for themselves, for their own family and friends," Truehill said.

In addition to the plea from Nagin, Thomas and Wilkins, video exhortations to make evacuation plans come from representatives of State Police and the National Weather Service, and from local officials such as Sen. Ann Duplessis, D-New Orleans, and State Rep. Arthur Morrell, D-New Orleans, said Allan Katz, whose advertising company is coordinating officials' scripts and doing the recording.

The speakers explain what to bring and what to leave behind. They advise viewers to bring personal medicines and critical legal documents, and tell them how to create a family communication plan. Even a representative of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals weighs in with a message on how to make the best arrangements for pets left behind.



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