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WTF! FEMA will use trains in event of hurricane! OMG! OMG! OMG!

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08/27/2008 07:45 PM
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WTF! FEMA will use trains in event of hurricane! OMG! OMG! OMG!
The Associated Press

The Federal Emergency Management Agency may expand the use of passenger trains to evacuate the elderly and sick in advance of hurricanes across the Gulf Coast, a FEMA official said Monday.

Glenn Cannon, a FEMA assistant administrator, told a congressional subcommittee meeting in New Orleans that his agency is looking at passenger trains as a method to get people with physical impediments out of harm's way.

New Orleans has become something of a guinea pig for train evacuations. After Hurricane Katrina, which hit in August 2005, Amtrak was hired to be on hand if another hurricane struck to evacuate people with special needs. And the use of trains has become an important part of New Orleans' disaster plans.

Cannon said FEMA is now devising disaster plans for other Gulf Coast cities based on the New Orleans model.

"We're changing our whole planning focus now from Louisiana-centric to Gulf Coast-centric," Cannon told the field hearing of the House subcommittee on railroads, pipelines and hazardous materials. But, he said, turning railways into evacuations routes won't be easy.

For example, rights of way for most railroads are privately owned by freight companies, and there is no congressional mandate to use railroads as evacuation routes. Also, the existing stock of passenger cars cannot accommodate evacuees unable to walk, such as those so sick they have to be carried on stretchers or who rely on respirators, he said.

City officials said Congress and FEMA should create a national plan to use trains in disasters.

"This is an underutilized resource that this country, if it focuses in on it, can improve," Mayor Ray Nagin told the subcommittee.

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