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Emergency Managers Collaborate on New Strategies to Feed People During Disasters
Source: govtech.com
Source Date: Thursday, September 02, 2010
Focus: Internet Governance
Country: United States
Created: Sep 07, 2010

When Hurricane Katrina tore through the United States' Gulf Coast in August 2005, the people of New Orleans experienced devastation for which few were prepared. Mayor Ray Nagin ordered an evacuation on Aug. 28, but when the storm made landfall in Louisiana two days later, those who remained had to deal with chaos. Within days, 80 percent of New Orleans was underwater and thousands of people sought shelter in the Louisiana Superdome. After Katrina passed, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals estimated that 1,464 lives were lost.

But the tragedy didn't lie just with the storm - it was also the failure of emergency management forces to adequately feed the survivors.

According to a U.S. House of Representatives report, most shelters and hospitals lacked adequate food or potable water for days after the hurricane's landfall. The mayor called the Superdome a "refuge of last resort," not intended to house and provide food and water for thousands of people over several days. Other evacuation points, like the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, lacked food or water. A September 2005 USA Today editorial claimed that "every level of government that was supposed to prepare for the storm and its aftermath failed miserably."

And the disasters kept coming. CNN reported that in 2008 - the year of hurricanes Ike and Gustav - there was a major hurricane every month from July to November in the North Atlantic.

"In 2008, when Ike and Gustav hit Louisiana and Texas, there were multiple problems in the delivery of feeding," said Michael Whitehead, the state mass care officer for the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. "The food was getting to the people, but the process was very ugly, and there was a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering by the emergency managers."

So he and some colleagues got to thinking - what if there were a way for disaster responders to coordinate feeding efforts whenever crises occur that are too big for one organization to handle? They convened following the 2008 hurricane season and after a lengthy brainstorming process, composed the Multi-Agency Feeding Plan Template, a document designed to make mass feeding across jurisdictions easier.

"Past disasters like Hurricane Ike and earlier mass feeding efforts have taught us that a comprehensive plan that includes our federal, state and local partners, including the private sector, is vital to making sure that people are fed during and in the aftermath of a disaster," said Peggy Mott, a specialist in mass care at FEMA.

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