Nacogdoches churches used as evacuation shelters get inspected

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Nacogdoches churches, designated as evacuation shelters, opened their doors to a state inspector Tuesday. As he walked through, he measured it in search of specific handicap violations.

"FEMA has requested that all states update their plan so we can accommodate people of all needs and meet all their functional needs, whether they have special needs for vision, or hearing or health needs," said Bobbie Ann Anderson, American Red Cross volunteer coordinator.

It is now required by law for people who function independently or with a support be housed in general shelters rather than medical special-needs shelters.

So now the state has a problem with a non-compliant doorknob. Corrections must be made, or at least find a federally approved, different way of doing things.

"You could say, for example, put a doorbell here so if somebody needed assistance in getting in the door it could ring. You could have somebody stationed at the door that could be responsible for opening the door for those that come in," said Peter Hicks, a contract state inspector.

At churches just about everywhere there was some nervousness, at first, about all these guidelines. The American Red Cross is attempting to ease those anxieties.

The American Red Cross can only hope they and other church leaders are telling themselves it is a small sacrifice when helping those in need.

"We don't know when the storms or trials are going to happen, but we will be ready. So we welcome it," said Pat Kelley, the pastor at Fredonia Hill Baptist Church.

If that attitude prevails, there won't be any problem housing the masses. If it becomes cost prohibitive, the act of kindness may be more difficult to offer.

On Wednesday, the inspector will lead a workshop in Lufkin and Nacogdoches. The topic will focus on local evacuations.

Copyright 2011 KTRE. All rights reserved.