NEW ORLEANS - Ever year during hurricane season, New Orleans prepares for the worst and hopes for the best.
Sunday, community leaders teamed up with city officials to hold a training session and 'Hello Hurricane Season' event for residents looking to get prepared for the upcoming season or become an evacuation volunteer.
'An evacuteer is really the first line of a string of people that evacuees will encounter,' says Evacuteer.org Executive Director Jennifer Hardin. 'It's really important to take an active roll, get trained and understand your roll in the process.'
'We have to have them,' said Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Homeland Security Col. Jerry Sneed. 'If we have to do an evacuation we cannot do it without volunteers.'
The city's improved evacuation plan includes evacuspots, which offer folks a free ride out of town if there is a mandatory evacuation.
However, unlike before, the pickup sites are hard to miss. At each of the 17 evacuspots sits a 14-foot tall stainless steel sculpture of a stick figure hailing a cab.
'You really can't miss them,' says Hardin. 'It's great how people are calling in and say, 'Oh, yeah, I have one in my neighborhood. I just saw it.' That's really what we like to see.'
The city also wants to make sure all residents have a plan. Event organizers even handed out starter emergency preparedness kits, full of water bottles and hand-crank flashlights, to help folks get prepared if there is a mandatory evacuation.
'When you are under stress, you don't think very well and you are going to forget things,' says Sneed. 'So right now, get that check list, know what you are going to do and how you are going to do it.'
City officials say their biggest fear is complacency, which is one reason why they wasted no time reminding folks not to wait until there is a threat to start preparing.
'We haven't had a big storm in quite some time, so people start finding reasons why not to listen to us,' says Sneed. 'Just heed our warnings. Our plans are solid, but they are not good unless our citizens listen to us.'
For more information about how to become a volunteer with evacuteer.org, click here
For tools to help your make your own preparedness plan, just go to the city's website, click here.