JDCC to undergo assessment as hurricane shelter
Published 1:18 am Monday, April 24, 2006
By By Kerry Whipple-Bean
Jefferson Davis Community College would be used as a hurricane shelter under a new state preparedness plan unveiled this week.
The plan calls for Alabama to use its network of community colleges and their facilities to house as many as 25,000 people at a time.
Red Cross and state emergency management officials will visit college campuses next week to assess needs, said Amanda Vaughn, director of communications for the Alabama College System.
"We're looking for storage to provide a certain amount of readiness," Vaughn said, noting the state does not want to have to bring in supplies at the last minute but have them on hand already at each college.
JDCC President Dr. Susan McBride said the college is ready to work with state officials.
"As a public institution, Jefferson Davis Community College will work diligently with all the partners to execute the plans and stay prepared for our facilities to be utilized as needed in time of crisis," she said.
The colleges across the state would be organized in three tiers to open as space is needed.
JDCC would be considered a "tier one" shelter – that is, filled first – because of its proximity to the coast, Vaughn said.
Vaughn emphasized that Red Cross – the organization usually charged with manning and running such shelters – has been involved with the state's plan.
"We're not kicking the Red Cross out," she said.
Red Cross has the experience running shelters, while colleges have facilities such as showers and cafeterias that can accommodate evacuees for longer periods of time, Vaughn said.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, more than 25,000 people registered in Alabama as evacuees after Hurricane Katrina last year.
Many of those evacuees stayed longer than expected because of widespread damage and flooding along the coast and in New Orleans.
"This is bringing together the strengths to prevent delays and have spaces that can handle longer-term evacuations," Vaughn said. "Colleges have a variety of kinds of facilities" that would make them good places to shelter evacuees.