Saturday, September 03, 2005

The Houston Astrodome: A Symphony of Relief

Thursday, September 01, 2005 — HOUSTON -- When the Superdome in New Orleans was wounded Katrina, the 23,000 evacuees housed there would once again have to move. Solutions had to be found, and one answer was bussing to Houston for sheltering in the Astrodome.
Long time American Red Crosser Patrick Knapp was named Shelter Manager for the Astrodome operation. Knapp was Shelter Manager for the New Jersey shelter operation after the Sept. 11 attacks.
“This was an eleventh hour decision,” said Knapp, who has been with the Red Cross for ten years. “We stepped up to the plate with enthusiasm. We don’t want this shelter to be opened exclusively to Superdome evacuees. We want to serve them all. We want to bring everyone into the fold. This is not about you, or me, and it’s not about rules. This is about our clients.”
One of the problems facing the sheltering team was how to keep track of roughly 30,000 people. Tough problems like this one beg for innovation, and Red Cross creativity and a community partner found the solution.
“We called Kroger and asked for 30,000 of their bar coded swipe cards,” Knapp said. “They agreed and said they said they would set up a system at the shelter with a swipe card for each evacuee. The information will be collected at registration and a card will be assigned to each person.”
As that person leaves the Astrodome for an errand, they will swipe their card at the main gate, helping the Red Cross keep track of who is there and not there -- giving instant accountability. It makes Disaster Welfare Inquiry a:00 p.m. - Four volunteers from the American Red Cross wait at the Astrodome ready to help. There were no supplies. The inside of the Astrodome is marked in tape and chalk lines of 5’x7’ rectangles. Each rectangle will hold one cot. snap. Now the Red Cross has a database and we have accountability. It paid for the Red Cross to make the move and advance it service through the10:00 p.m. – Refrigerator trucks arrive with food.
10:40 p.m. - No supplies yet. Whispers of a 10-bus convoy coming from the Superdome, with as many as 60 rogue busses as well carrying desperate, displaced persons aboard all needing one thing—basic shelter. The anxious crew was running on rumours, adrenaline, and a need to help.
11:35 p.m. – The cots arrive! A semi truck and trailer pull into the Astrodome. Volunteers quickly descend upon it to unload cots.
12:35 a.m. – 70 percent of the cots are up in the infield making the infield a sea of green rectangles each with a warm blanket. The sports arena is filling with volunteers on one mission for relief. Red Cross signage goes up.
1:00 a.m. – An ambulance pulls into a cubby just outside of the field of cots to bring medical service to the shelter. Each person will be checked for any health-related problems and if need be, treated by healthcare professionals.
As this reporter walked away from the Astrodome, now standing as an amazing testament of human strength, and innovation, I marvelled at how it was to see it come together. It was like a gifted composer who has this collection of beautiful notes playing in his head and then assembles them into one remarkable symphony. Only this time that symphony played a song of relief for those displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Kudos to the Shelter Crew of the Astrodome and all of the community partners that made this happen. cooperation of a community partner like Kroger.
Another key player at the shelter is logistics expert Daniel Krall with the Red Cross. Krall explained that cots were borrowed from FEMA and other state and local government agencies.
Hundreds of volunteers committed to work rotating 12-hour shifts to bring relief to these stranded evacuees with a timeline something like this


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