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Iowa's Response to Katrina



Hurricane Disaster Response – What We Know at This Time

We have been advised by the Iowa Department of Education that Iowa is one of three states (Iowa, Utah and Michigan) that have offered to be secondary evacuation centers for survivors of the hurricane Katrina. Emergency coordinators anticipate we may receive anywhere from zero up to as many as 5,000 (or more) evacuees.

These evacuees will be flown to Iowa. Most of these folks are from the poorest neighborhoods of New Orleans. They will not be told that they are being flown to Iowa. (Which may make for some very confused or unhappy people when they arrive at the Des Moines airport…)

Upon arrival here, they will be relocated to the Iowa State Fairgrounds for processing. Individuals will be given health screening and security background checks (to be sure there are no child molesters or individuals with warrants out for their arrest).

Once they’ve been screened, they will be given debit cards which will provide limited dollars to these individuals based on the size of their families. They also will have beds at the fairgrounds where they can stay temporarily. The fairgrounds will be secured. Only preauthorized individuals will be allowed onto the fairgrounds. Please don’t send any volunteers to the fairgrounds to help.

VOLUNTEER COORDINATION

The AEA is prepared to collect names of individuals who may want to volunteer in the schools or with the relocation efforts. Send the names of any volunteers who want to serve to my attention. Please tell me what they propose to do or their specialty, such as school counselor, school nurse, etc. I will forward their names to my contact at the DE for prescreening.
Any volunteers must first be cleared before they can work with the families or with the children. Please get the word to all your schools that under no circumstances should anyone “just show up” at the state fairgrounds to try to help the evacuees. They will be turned away unless they have been screened, credentialed and given the volunteer proper wristband IDs.

NEXT STEPS FOR THE EVACUEES

The Red Cross is currently working to secure hotel rooms in the eight metropolitan areas of Iowa – Des Moines; Cedar Falls; Cedar Rapids; Iowa City; Davenport, Dubuque, Sioux City and Council Bluffs. FEMA funding will pay for two weeks of motel/hotel stays, and depending on circumstances, the evacuees can apply for extensions on these stays. We don’t know how long they may be in the area.

Since they are not being forced to stay here and although most will not be able to return to the Gulf coast region for several months, some may not choose to stay in Iowa the entire time they are displaced. At this time we can not predict how many families and students will be coming here, how soon they will reach our communities or how long they will stay. We also do not know the full extent of services they will need.

WHAT YOUR SCHOOLS CAN DO

Please continue fund-raising efforts. It’s the best thing you can do at this time. Your fund-raising doesn’t have to be coordinated through the AEA. You can send your funds directly to the Red Cross or to other quality emergency relief services. The addresses to send money to the Red Cross in this area and/or directly to the national organization are:

American Red Cross OR American Red Cross
408 East Main P.O. Box 37243
Ottumwa, Iowa 52501 Washington, D.C. 20013
National Disaster Relief Note: Hurricane Katrina Relief
Attn: Sherry Lee 1-800-HELP-NOW
641-682-4571

The DE says, please DON’T collect clothing, furniture or other hard goods right now. They know the generosity of most Iowans, and if we put out a call for clothing, we could end up with way more than the families need. Most of these families will be in transit, and we don’t want to load them down with lots of “stuff” to transport.

STUDENT ADMISSIONS TO AREA SCHOOLS

Again, we don’t know how many of these families will be relocated to Iowa and/or to our area or how soon they will get here. (We have been told several times over, “Be loose. Be flexible.”) Louisiana does have a central student data system, but the Louisiana DE may take several weeks to get any student records to you. If students come to your schools, make your placements age-appropriate as best as you can.

The DE anticipates that student records will be hard to come by. If families show up at your doorstep and want their children to attend for now, we can welcome them; however, we should let the families decide for themselves if they want to put their children in school. If they plan to stay only a week or two, it probably would do more harm than good to try to get the children acculturated to their Iowa school setting and then move again.

Immunization is a critical concern for most of the evacuees. If the individuals already have immunization cards or records with them, that’s great. Most will not. I understand that your districts can issue "provisional certificates of immunization" that grant a 60-day immunization waiver. The third option is for the families to immunize their children.

Authorities tell us the greatest concern they have for these evacuees is hepatitis A. It could take up to 3 or 4 months for people to develop some of the diseases to which they’ve been exposed.
The DE anticipates these students may have greater needs than many of the students we usually see. They will be suffering from serious culture shock. To most of them, Iowa is a long, long way from home and a radical change from what they are used to in multiple ways.

Updated information will continue to come to you as it is received. If you have any questions or want to have your name added to a list of volunteers from Area 15 to be submitted to the DE, please contact: Nancy Brown, Director of Community Relations, AEA 15 Hurricane Katrina Relief Contact, Southern Prairie AEA 15, 2814 North Court Street, Ottumwa, Iowa 52501 – 800-286-8591, Ext. 210 or email brownN@aea15.k12.ia.us
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