Elizabeth Daigneau is GOVERNING's managing editor.E-mail: email@example.com
Amid the chaos that followed Hurricane Katrina, families were separated in the evacuation and sent to different cities. In some cases, it took weeks before they were reunited. Texas officials don't want that to happen should a disaster strike their state. To avoid it, they plan to track evacuees using scannable ID bracelets.
The ID bracelets are about the size and weight of a hospital wristband. In case of an evacuation, citizens boarding buses, trains or airplanes will have their Texas driver's license swiped to capture their name and address--the data can also be entered manually--and be given a bracelet with their name on the outside and additional information stored electronically on a strip of metal inside. When they reach their destination, the bracelet will be scanned by a walk- through portal or handheld device, updating the state database with the person's new location. Operators at the state's 211 system will have access to up-to-the-minute tracking information and can inform families of a relative's whereabouts.
The Governor's Division of Emergency Management, which is procuring the ID bracelets, is also establishing a database of residents who will need help evacuating and a list of locations--separate from those available to the general public--where the buses can stop to refuel and provide travelers with food and water. These new steps are an effort to avoid the massive traffic jams that occurred when thousands fled the Texas Gulf Coast ahead of Hurricane Rita last year.
The ID bracelet technology is often used for commercial-trucking purposes but has never been used in an evacuation.