FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 6, 2009
Contact: Trey Williams
DSS, GOHSEP Announce 50,000 Shelter Spaces Available to House Evacuees in Case of Emergency
Five states To Provide Up to 26,000 beds for critical transportation needs evacuees
BATON ROUGE - The Department of Social Services (DSS) and the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) today announced that for planning purposes five states have agreed to shelter up to 26,000 Louisiana residents who do not have the resources to evacuate on their own before a storm.
"Our first priority is to the people of Louisiana to ensure that those without the means to evacuate will have safe shelter in the event of an evacuation," said DSS Secretary Kristy Nichols. "The state estimates for planning purposes that as many as 50,000 Louisiana residents do not have the means to get out of harm's way when a hurricane targets the state. This agreement will further Louisiana's emergency planning efforts and provide safety for our residents until conditions allow them to return."
States offering shelter space for planning purposes are:
- Texas - 10,000 spaces
- Georgia - 5,000 spaces (planning number dependent upon estimates for self-evacuees into their state)
- Tennessee - 5,000 spaces
- Arkansas - 4,000 spaces
- Kentucky - evaluating their ability to support up to 2,000 spaces
Louisiana has agreed with partner states to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in resolving any outstanding issues regarding FEMA regulations that provide disincentives for host state sheltering.
"Partnerships with nearby states are vital to seeing Louisiana safely through a hurricane," said Mark Cooper, GOHSEP Director. "These agreements remove guesswork in evacuating Louisianians, allowing officials to quickly move them from areas of the state threatened by a storm."
Louisiana has CTNS spaces in Shreveport (two shelters), Monroe, Bastrop and Alexandria that can house 8,000 evacuees. Seven medical special needs shelters statewide can accommodate 2,650 patients and caregivers. In addition, the American Red Cross, who historically has managed the majority of shelters within Louisiana and is partnering with the State in shelter planning and implementation, is working to identify an additional 11,000 CTNS spaces across the state.
Parish-run CTNS are located in Shreveport (two shelters) and Bossier City and can provide 3,400 beds. Officials in Caddo and Bossier parishes recently finalized an agreement that will bring in volunteers and state employees from Oklahoma to run one of those facilities.
Last year, Hurricane Gustav forced the state to call for a full coastal evacuation. It was the first time officials required residents of both southeast and southwest Louisiana to leave their homes in advance of a storm. Of the estimated two million evacuees, 37,000 were housed in Critical Transportation Needs Shelters, in and out of the state.
During the past year, DSS developed a short-term sheltering plan, focusing on improving standards for registering and tracking evacuees, raising shelter standards, increasing management and staffing and providing better communication and human services for evacuees.
To increase evacuees' sense of comfort at the shelters, DSS will apply a modified American Red Cross standard of 30 square feet per person for both pre- and post-storm sleeping arrangements. The American Red Cross standard is 20 square feet before a storm and 40 square feet after the storm.
DSS also is ensuring that shelters are equipped with one toilet and hand-washing station per 20 evacuees and one shower per 25 evacuees. All hygiene stations will be ordered 72 hours before the expected arrival of evacuees at the shelter so that they are delivered prior to evacuees arriving.
Each shelter will be pre-stocked with a three-day supply of Meals Ready to Eat, water and comfort kits, with extra inventory warehoused to replenish stock. Additionally, shelters will have television and radio capabilities so residents will be able to monitor local, national and weather stations.
Both DSS and GOHSEP believe that in the long-term, the state must be able to house all critical transportation needs evacuees in-state. Louisiana will continue to invest resources in state sheltering capabilities, including hardening and renovating existing state buildings and constructing new multi-purpose facilities.