Special-needs evacuation

City had evacuation plan but strayed from strategy
By LISE OLSEN Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle

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The Chronicle reviewed Louisiana’s Emergency Operations Plan, adopted in 2000. It calls for the establishment of specialized shelters for people with special medical needs. It also recommends that cities use public transportation to evacuate residents if necessary.
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People who called for information on special needs shelters Saturday were directed to sites in Alexandria and in Monroe, La. — cities 218 and 326 miles away. The state scrambled to find 20 ambulances and some specialized vans to pick up fragile residents who needed rides.
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Some, including Lower 9th Ward resident Lois Rice, a paraplegic, became trapped in their homes when the floodwaters rose. She was rescued after using her air mattress to float into her attic.

Florida, by contrast, for two decades has required counties to establish and maintain permanent databases of “special needs citizens,” and arrange rides for people with no transportation. The state also has sheltersestablished for myriad medical conditions.

Florida emergency officials agree that last-minute planning simply doesn’t work.
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In New Orleans, many people with special medical needs ended up at the last resort shelter in the Superdome.
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