Improved Disaster Plan is Now in Place - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

05/05/06 - East Texas

Improved Disaster Plan is Now in Place

by Ramonica R. Jones

"We'll be much more prepared in our ability to evacuate the coast in a catastrophic event than we were last year, much more," said Jack Colley, chief of Governor's Division of Emergency Management.

State leaders are making sure of it. Five key areas have been improved since hurricanes Katrina and Rita left thousands of storm victims dead, devastated, and displaced last summer. Helping disabled evacuees get to safety will be one of the biggest challenges.

"We need to look at our special needs citizens that are being evacuated - the best way we can care for them, identify who they are, care for them during evacuation, and then shelter them in a means that will take care of them."

Colley said problems with fuel availability along evacuation routes have been solved, thanks to cooperation from the state's fuel suppliers. Both the chain of command and communication strategies during a disaster have also been improved. Now, emergency crews will be able to better control more than 3.2 million citizens expected to evacuate during a catastrophe.

"We've looked at the whole lessons learned from Katrina and Rita and we assure that we'll have more than enough law enforcement support personnel here in this area. The concept will be to bring troopers from across the state as well as law enforcement from other agencies across the state."

Improvements were made after the Task Force on Evacuation, Transportation, and Logistics held several public hearings across the state, gathering input on how to get residents, their pets, and their cars to safety quickly during an emergency.

Another improvement to this year's plan includes satellite tracking devices for buses transporting evacuees.

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