Another severe hurricane, disastrous damage, people made homeless - yet there is a possibility to make future disasters more manageable in terms of relief.
It is simply no good to evacuate people from their homes in a storm and have them congregate in a local high school, or as in Katrina's case, a stadium. If the building is in the local area, the danger is still present. As we can see from the current problem, where the stadium roof has been breached in a number of places, and where a local power outage has made the expected refuge yet another casualty of this storm. The people who had taken shelter there are now exposed to the elements, have no running water, no power, and the toilets are backed up.
I propose that one or two bases in the Southern part of the US, fairly close to the coastal areas but farther inland, if closed due to base realignment, be given over to FEMA to set up as evacuation 'camps'.
When a storm like Katrina is headed to a coastal area, school buses in that area, and National Guard trucks, could evacuate people without vehicles (those with vehicles of their own could load their vehicles with household items and join the convoy) and move them inland to these old bases.
The Red Cross could already have supplies set up in those locations, and it would make caring for the evacuees much simpler whilst, at the same time, keeping them away from devastated areas while damage is assessed and plans formulated for rebuilding.
This would be an ideal solution.
The chow halls on bases are set up to handle feeding a lot of people in a short amount of time. Kitchens are already equipped, it would simply be a matter of bringing in the people who are going to cook and serve, along with the food itself. However, some goods, canned and dried could be stored there prior to any emergency.
Water, power and sanitation would be readily accessible, and in a far more managed situation. Local utility companies could leave such supplies on and not charge until such time as they are being utilized in an emergency, or could even then forego billing and claim it as a charitable donation on their taxes.
Base clinics and hospitals could be utilized to treat minor ailments, and in the event of people who did not leave before a storm hits, could also be used to check survivors and/or treat the wounded.
Base housing would allow people to do more for themselves. Each family could have a room in an apartment or house, but could share the kitchen and bathroom. Larger families could have 2 rooms, or extended families might share a complete home. Military cots could be permanently set up in all bedrooms, with blankets, simply awaiting the displaced to make them up.
Keeping the civilians safe would be much easier in a centralized location, and recreational areas on the old bases could be utilized to give respite to the stress, much as they do in the everyday running of a base.
Each 'closed' base would obviously need a small contingent of National Guard, to keep it secure, during times that it was not being utilized, and then a greater force when full of evacuees.
However, moving people away from hard hit areas, would aid in cutting looting to a minimum and help the disaster management teams to assess the damage and to plan recovery, without having to deal with distraught civilians 'in the way'.
Evacuees could be returned to an area once it was made safe, to assess damage to their own properties and to file insurance claims etc.
It would make the whole situation more manageable, and less stressful, for all involved.
I realize it would take money and time to organize this, but it is something that should be carefully considered as a possible solution for future severe hurricanes (possibly earthquakes, tornadoes, etc) to actually make the situation easier on everybody involved.
On the one hand it would require some government shuffling, the transfer of the properties would need to be carefully worked out and budgets adjusted to show this.
On the other hand, people would be safe; feeding and sheltering those made homeless would be made simpler and more effective; the clean up and rescue crews would have a much easier job than they do now, and ultimately, I feel this would save money in the long run.
It could also save a lot of lives.