FEMA officials and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff participated in an evacuation drill in New Orleans on Tuesday, riding a Regional Transit Authority (RTA) bus and wearing plastic bar code bracelets, as part of federal efforts to prepare for the 2006 hurricane season.
A total of about 3,000 RTA buses, additional Amtrak trains and possibly airplanes will be used to pick up evacuees from staging areas throughout the city and surrounding parishes ahead of a major storm. National Guard troops will be on standby to drive buses in case RTA employees flee from an approaching storm along with other frightened residents.
Chertoff emphasized the government’s interest in avoiding a situation in which thousands of people are stranded, as they were at the Superdome and Convention Center during Katrina. By formulating procedures for processing evacuees, ensuring that enough “long haul buses” are available, and working closely with all levels of local government, federal officials hope to begin evacuation up to 48 or 72 hours in advance of a storm.