Disaster shows need for reform

When bad weather strikes, people run.Hurricanes, tornados, wildfires: All send the surrounding population scurrying for safety, desperate to find some shelter to escape the fury of nature.

But what happens when a person can’t run?

In a report released by the Texas Department of State Health Services that evaluated Texas’ response to the Hurricane Rita evacuations, it was recommended that the administration “should develop a way to track special needs patients during hurricane evacuations, ensure their medical records are sent with them and let emergency responders know which hospitals and shelters have room for them.”

That’s quite a bit of renovation.

But it appears to be a necessary one, after 60 people died during the unorganized south Texas exodus to escape Rita. Although not all of the fatalities were special-needs people, 23 of the deaths were nursing home residents from Houston who died when their bus exploded.

Many other caravans of elderly or handicapped people were forced to abandon their evacuation in favor of the nearest hospital to receive immediate medical treatment. The hospitals were already full.

And if that wasn’t problematic enough, many of these emergency cases were handled without proper identification or diagnosis. Many disabled individuals were loaded onto buses or vans without following a clear process of evacuation, Most were lacking not only ID’s, but medical records and contact information as well.

So what is the administration planning to do about all of this? First, the report suggested that nursing homes and other care units contact fellow institutions to be sure select locations won’t be overloaded or off-guard when evacuees arrive. Staff members, according to the report, should be more aware of the amount of supplies that will be needed for the trip.

In short, those responsible for the needy should be more, well . responsible.

Sports editor Travis Stewart for the editorial board.