The administrator of Iowa’s Emergency Management division says he and others in the agency are evaluating what happened in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama before, during and after Hurricane Katrina. Emergency Management administrator David Miller says while there was no mass airlift of hurricane victims to Iowa, the state did gain by setting up processing centers and sleeping quarters on the Iowa State Fairgrounds for up to 1,000 evacuees. “I think a number of lessons have been learned. This is a catastrophic disaster and we’re certainly cutting some new ground here on our approach,” Miller says. “We’re used to sending state agencies and state supplies into the area…but we’re reaching out more and more to other agencies of government and to private industry in the role they will play. That’s some new ground for us.” For example, state officials have coordinated evacuee arrivals in the Des Moines area with the Des Moines Black Ministerial Alliance. That group has arranged to have members of local black churches on hand to greet the evacuees and shepherd them through their first hours and days in Iowa. Miller says state officials are trying to help evacuees stay connected to their home state. “There’s matters they have to take care of,” Miller says. “That’s been a little bit of a challenge…but with the help of faith-based ministries, with the help of the Red Cross and the help of the partners we have, we can do that.” Miller says one of the “road blocks” they have encountered is just who has permission to certain records so evacuees can be “tracked through the system.” That system includes the Red Cross, which provides a clothing allowance and pays up the hotel tab for temporary housing to Medicaid — the government-run insurance program for the poor — to schools which are enrolling kids who’re attending class here because their school in Louisiana or Mississippi isn’t open.
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