Andy Kim is a former GOVERNING staff writer.
Emergency responses to large-scale disasters sometimes seem quite haphazard, with hectic evacuations and sometimes, communication issues. After Hurricane Katrina forced more than 270,000 people out of their homes, many Louisiana residents were transported across state lines to shelters in Oklahoma because Louisiana shelters were understaffed. The Oklahoman reports that instead of sending Louisiana evacuees out of the state, the Oklahoma Shelter Program will send Oklahomans to Louisiana to operate the state’s shelters in the case of an emergency. The pilot would cycle 150-member groups into Louisiana’s shelters until the relief efforts were complete, keeping evacuees closer to home and possibly returning them to their homes quicker. The program is federally funded by the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, but predominately relies on local government in Oklahoma to provide emergency responders. Emergency deployment exercises have been carried out, but the program has yet to be deployed in a real disaster situation.