Responding To A Disaster

After Hurricane Katrina and then Rita, local shelters were forced to step up to care for thousands. But are we ready to handle a disaster like that again?  We met with emergency responders today to find out.

Before Hurricane Katrina, the Smith County Red Cross had 6 facilities signed up to be a shelter with a total capacity of a thousand...far below what they actually needed.

"It was difficult we got through it and we took care of the clients which was our main focus. There were gaps we saw afterwards, obviously we need a lot more shelters," says Susan Campbell with Smith County Red Cross.

Campbell with the Red Cross says, today, they have 14 shelter facilities that will hold over 3,000 people.

"What we need is about 14 more shelters to double that capacity," says Campbell.

Campbell says they also need double the number of volunteers.

"We didn't have any leadership in the disaster response, we need liaisons at the disaster emergency center," says Campbell.

Fire Chief Neal Franklin is also the Emergency Management Coordinator for the City of Tyler. He says they have made improvements.

"This year we will have a welcome center or a reception center step up. It will be situation of where people come in on bus or individual cars and we will register them in on a computer," says Chief Franklin.

Then, the evacuees will go to a shelter.

"One thing I think will help is really going to help is our local food bank has stepped up and offered food to feed at all the shelter," says Chief Franklin.

Another issue he says that has addressed is the overflow of donations, which stacked up at shelters.

"Wait for us to notify the media.  They will get the word out when we need donations and where they should take it to," says Chief Franklin.

These changes will help make the shelters run better when responding to a disaster.

Karolyn Davis, reporting.