City makes test run to prepare for major evacuation

City makes test run to prepare for major evacuation

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - If a major hurricane threatens, the City of New Orleans says as many as 40,000 people will need help evacuating. City agencies and hundreds of volunteers came together Wednesday to make sure that help is ready.

"Better preparations equal better outcomes, and if everybody can be prepared we're ready to go," Mayor Mitch Landrieu said. "For those that can't help themselves, we are here and we're ready to do it."

Hundreds of volunteers acted out scenarios.

"I need an oxygen tank and everybody is pointing me every which way so I'm like, what if I die? What's going to happen?" Claire Merwin said.

Some were in wheelchairs, and one woman pretended to be in labor.

"I think it's a great idea so people know, like, the process, what we have to do if something were to go wrong or to happen just to see everything that goes on behind the scenes," said Patricia Thomas.

The evacuation exercise is taking the City Assisted Evacuation in full from picking up people at the pick-up points, to getting them processed and putting them on the buses that will get them out of town. Marketa Garner Walters is the Secretary of the Department of Children and Family Services.

"We help get you safe, keep you safe in the shelter and then we help you get food," she said.

Garner explains the huge role her department plays in an emergency. Its employees do the registration, staff statewide shelters and run the disaster food stamp program during recovery.

"There are multiple checkpoints in the evacuation process, so we need to make sure that people that are handicapped are going to the handicap route, people with pets are going to the pet route, small children and families are together and we will catch all of that at registration," she said.

Electronic cards help keep track of the registered evacuees. Garner Walters says the drill moves a bit more slowly than the real thing because workers are typing in false information instead of a quick swipe.

"In reality, it will be a very fast process. We will swipe your driver's license or ID card, scan your wristband and get you into the line to get you on a bus or on a plane," she said.

With all this preparation by officials, Mayor Mitch Landrieu says personal responsibility is still most important.

"There is no way that the City of New Orleans can evacuate a city that's not prepared. If 98 percent of this city, 99 percent of the city is ready, and they are going to do what they do, then we can take care of the other one percent," he said.

The city says about 4,000 people are registered for city-assisted evacuations. If you think you'll need help, you should register as soon as possible by calling 311, or you can sign up online.

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