Massachusetts officials say they are revising their disaster response plans after watching the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina and the problems with relief efforts.
Boston is redrawing its plan to evacuate and relocate residents, and the state is creating a task force to prepare for a Katrina-strength hurricane. More state-level training also appears likely.
“You’re crazy if you don’t go back and revisit your assumptions,” state Public Safety Secretary Ed Flynn told The Boston Globe.
Officials have improved terrorist-prevention efforts since the Sept. 11 attacks and during the Democratic National Convention in Boston last summer. But they acknowledge that they need to bolster plans to respond to a large-scale disaster.
Existing evacuation plans rely on people getting themselves out of Boston, but the experience in New Orleans showed that thousands of poor people have no means to leave.
“Let’s say there was an incident today and we couldn’t get out of the city, and we had to get people out of different neighborhoods. What would we do right now? It would be problematic,” Carlo A. Boccia, Boston’s director of homeland security, told the Globe.
Boston Mayor Tom Menino has asked Boccia to overhaul the city’s plans. The city hasn’t identified facilities to temporarily house thousands of evacuees, for example. New Orleans faced the same problem.
Boccia said he hopes to have these places identified within two months. They are considering stocking the sites with medical supplies, food and water.
“It would be wonderful if we could take 10,000 people to a place and have prepositioned medical care,” he said.
Christine McCombs, director of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, has convened a task force to improve hurricane relief plans.
“I always say to the team here that plans are living documents,” she said. “They are not meant to be created and put on the shelf.”
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