Emergency Responders Prepare for Katrina Hospitals, government agencies and charitable organizations gear up for the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The Federal Emergency Management Agency started preparing for a potential disaster on Friday.

Emergency Responders Prepare for Katrina

Emergency Responders Prepare for Katrina

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Hospitals, government agencies and charitable organizations gear up for the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The Federal Emergency Management Agency started preparing for a potential disaster on Friday.


In New Orleans, even lifelong residents who have stayed put for other hurricanes are evacuating this time.

Ms. KAREN MAYERS(ph) (Saint Bernard Parish): This storm really scared me.

MONTAGNE: Karen Mayers of the New Orleans area Saint Bernard Parish is staying at a downtown hotel with her family.

Ms. MAYERS: It is very strong. I'm sitting here right now and I can feel the building just swaying back and forth and I can hear the walls creaking. I've never experienced anything like that before.

MONTAGNE: One voice from New Orleans.


We're going to hear next about the response to Hurricane Katrina. Hospitals, government agencies and charitable organizations have all geared up for this storm. NPR's Joanne Silberner has this update on the public health response.


The Federal Emergency Management Agency started mobilizing its public health response on Friday. Michael Brown heads the agency.

Mr. MICHAEL BROWN (Federal Emergency Management Agency): I have sent our national disaster medical teams in several places. First of all, they've gone to the Superdome because there's about nine or 10,000 people there, and they're now without power. So it's going to be very muggy, very steamy and hot in there.

SILBERNER: Some of those people are very likely to need medical care. So will those who didn't evacuate. Brown says the team in New Orleans is ready. They're establishing a base at the huge stadium.

Mr. BROWN: It's actually a miniature hospital. It's doctors, surgeons, and nurses, anesthetists, pharmacists, logisticians, truck drivers, janitors--it's a self-contained miniature hospital.

SILBERNER: In addition to the team already at the Superdome, he's got four others waiting outside New Orleans, waiting to see which way the storm turns and where they'll be needed. The hospitals in the city are getting ready as well. Jeanne James is the chief medical officer for Tulane University Hospital and clinic.

Dr. JEANNE JAMES (Tulane University Hospital): Starting yesterday morning at 7 in the morning, we brought in all the staff that we'd need for both shifts for the duration of the hurricane.

SILBERNER: And last night they made some emergency room changes.

Dr. JAMES: We've had to move our emergency department from the first floor up to the third floor, so in case we had water in on the first floor we'd still have a functional emergency room on the third floor.

SILBERNER: They got practice in setting up last year with Hurricane Ivan and earlier this year Hurricane Dennis. Both turned before hitting the city. Right now with Katrina, she says...

Dr. JAMES: We are really in the worst part of the winds of the storm now or soon to be so there's really no other patients coming into the hospital at this point. Movement around the city is pretty much stopped at this point.

SILBERNER: They're taking care of the patients they have now and getting ready for later. Her own family has already evacuated. She'll see what's happened to her house when she finally gets home. Property may be damaged, but Jean Luc Poncelet says in any hurricane no one has to die. He's head of the disaster preparedness of the Pan American Health Organization. He says things could go well.

Mr. JEAN LUC PONCELET (Disaster Preparedness of the Pan American Health Organization): Hurricanes should not kill anybody. We have the technology nowadays that allows every single person on Earth to be protected from hurricanes so it is possible.

SILBERNER: But it can be difficult, he notes. New Orleans is an old city with narrow streets with slow evacuation, with a very low water table that enhances the chance of flooding and many buildings built long before building codes took hurricanes into account.

Joanne Silberner, NPR News.

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