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US Officials: Evacuation Plans Incomplete

WASHINGTON, Feb. 7 (UPI) — U.S. homeland security experts are aware of significant gaps in disaster preparedness, such as pre-established destinations for evacuees.
Although natural and man-made disasters in the past few years have spurred agencies at all levels of government to examine their emergency response plans and address deficiencies, gaping holes still exist, said panelists who took part in a forum sponsored by the American Military University on Feb. 6.
Plans for evacuation of endangered populations are incomplete, explained Patrick McCrory, mayor of Charlotte, NC., and a member of President Bush’s Homeland Security Advisory Council.
“We all have great evacuation plans, but we don’t know where the people are going,” McCrory said.
“We have to have evacuation agreements with neighboring cities and even cities that could be as far as 300 or 400 miles away, where they’re willing to take our residents and we’re willing to take theirs,” McCrory said.
McCrory told UPI that Charlotte has direct experience with the complications of not having evacuation agreements. He explained that people fleeing Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 began arriving in Charlotte with just five-hours warning. The city of Charlotte spent $500,000 per day hosting people who fled north in the wake of Katrina, McCrory said.
“Most cities are not prepared to accommodate an influx of people at such short notice and for an extended period of time,” McCrory said.
The effectiveness of evacuation plans depends on the ability of authorities to warn the population of an approaching threat, said David Paulison, the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Paulison called for the development of an audible warning system, similar to the type used in areas of the country that are particularly vulnerable to hurricanes and tornados.
Paulison said that a countrywide audible warning system would be just one component of the “robust, quick-activated system” that the United States needs to invest in so that authorities can alert the public about any major threat.

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