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Thursday

No shelter for you! In case of emergency, go some place else

Identifying where not to shelter is becoming popular. 
The reason should be no surprise.


People may evacuate or shelter in place during a disaster situation. Evacuees often find themselves seeking refuge in an established shelter of one type or another. Shelters are typically preplanned and established within the framework of a disaster plan that includes a system of public information. Those who don't evacuate to a shelter, didn't receive shelter information, or are unfamiliar with their current location, may find themselves seeking safe haven at locations of perceived safety. Public locations such as schools and libraries may be thought of as "places to go" during a crisis. Similarly, other installations may represent a location of service or place to go for help. Fire stations and healthcare facilities are often understood to be locations were the public can go for help in times of crisis. But are these locations suitable and prepared to become shelters during disaster or crisis situations?


What happens when public expectation is not met?
Photo credit: Michael Ehrman
We discussed this topic in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina and the Tenet health decision. Tenet Health, owners of  a New Orleans hospital, were sued by the people who sought shelter at the hospital during and after hurricane Katrina. The suit alleged that the hospital was not prepared to deal with the disaster situation and provide for the needs of those who sought shelter at the hospital. It'd be important to to note that those who came to the hospital during Katrina were not patients. Since the public had never been told not to shelter there, it was a reasonable expectation that the hospital was a shelter and, therefore, liable. At the time of publication, we called the Tenet decision the biggest healthcare preparedness ruling that no one is talking about. While the monetary impact of the suit may not have been impressive, the implications of the outcome were president setting. More and more we're seeing signs posted telling the public that this place "is not a shelter". It seems a little creepy to find a sign on the door of your local school or hospital or Moose Lodge reminding you to go someplace else in the event of an emergency.

Michael Ehrman, retired emergency manager and long time MJ follower, sent in the above photo taken at a school in his area. What locations in your ares might be considered to be a safe haven or shelter by the public? Is your agency prepared to take in refugees during a disaster? Finally, are you aware of public perceptions concerning sheltering in your area? In the wake of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and more recently, Super Storm Sandy, this would be a good time to explore those questions and include the proper information in your public education and preparedness efforts.

Related posts:
Forward thinking: Bringing the Katrina Healthcare Decision Home
Message from Katrina: Hospitals, be ready

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