As the horrors of Hurricane Katrina contiue to be tolled, and the true lack of our cities' preparedness becomes obvious, two ideas occur to me:
1. Every incorporated city should be required to have several designated large-scale disaster shelter areas within its city limits (the exact number to be dependent on the area's population). These disaster shelters should be maintained and publicized - so that all citizens know about them and know where they are - and there should be official plans in place for how to convert them, at a moment's notice, to functioning places of respite, complete with food and water supplies.
2. Every city that spends millions (or hundreds of millions) of taxpayer dollars to build a professional sports stadium should require that the facility's plans, from day one, incorporate elements that would allow it to be easily converted to a functioning disaster shelter (e.g. banks of seats should be fairly easy to remove, to create extra flat space for sleeping, if needed). With costs shared by the city and the sports franchises, there should also be storage space for emergency supplies, which could help service the initial wave of refugees until the city's disaster plan (see above) became operational to bring in fresh stores. And these supplies should be maintained and refreshed on a regular basis so they don't expire (the old supplies could be donated shortly before their expiration to the homeless or other deserving outlets, so nothing goes to waste).
At first glance, these measures may sound like they'd never fly...but as I recall, the bomb scares of the 1950s resulted in a vast network of well-stocked public fallout shelters...and this would be much the same, only much more likely to be used, especially in areas, such as the Gulf Coast and the earthquake-prone West Coast, which are obviously vulnerable to large-scale disasters. Also, the costs would be minimal compared to the stratospheric price (in lives and dollars) we'll pay now for the lack of such provisions on the Gulf Coast.
posted by Elizabeth 8:11 AM