Evacuteer.org by Meredith Cherney

“It’s a fact of life that some people will always to say ‘I won’t go.’

Evacuteer makes sure no one has to say ‘I can’t go.’” – Jennifer Calzada ELC

Ø  History and Background

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After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina the big question everyone asked was, how did we let this happen?  From the failing levees to the thousands stranded after the storm, our city failed to protect its citizens.

Yet, in true New Orleans spirit we rebuilt.  The New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness reexamined and changed their emergency management plans and procedures using the lessons learned from Katrina.  One major problem the city recognizes is the inability of some citizens to evacuate due to lack of transportation.  As a result, City Assisted Evacuation Plan (CAE) was created as an alternative to city shelters that provides buses for up to 25,000 to 30,000 New Orleanians for evacuation.  The city encourages those who do have private transport to use their own instead of the CAE to give priority those in need of transportation for evacuation.  Additionally, the CAE has special need pick up points that allow those who are handicapped or sick to have equal access to evacuation transportation.

Even upon activating the CAE for Hurricane Gustav in 2008, it became obvious that the system was still incomplete.  Volunteers Robert Fogarty (known for his “Dear World” photo campaign) and Guillermo Olivos saw these holes in the system and came up with the idea for evacuteer.org. Evacuteer.org recruits, trains, and manages evacuation volunteers (evacuteers) to assist with the CAE at EvacuSpots.  EvacuSpots are marked by at 14ft sculpture (see photo) where volunteers help register evacuees to shorten lines at the Union Passenger Terminal and add a friendly smile and human touch to a very stressful situation.

Ø  Mission and Goals

“Evacuteer.org is committed to making sure every New Orleans resident is able to safely and efficiently evacuate the city, and that all residents are empowered with the knowledge and expertise to stay safe each hurricane season. Evacuteer.org seeks to improve New Orleans hurricane preparedness through seeking innovative emergency management solutions; including public art initiatives, preparedness trainings and engaging community and neighborhood organizations in City Assisted Evacuation activities.” – Evacuteer.org

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“New Orleans loves itself more than any other place I have ever been. 

I don’t mean that in an egotistical way, but more in a “we-take-care-of-our-own-come-hell-or-high-water”

kind of way. And Evacuteer embodies the absolute best of what our city has to offer,

citizens taking care of each other, protecting their

communities and ensuring our futures.” – Jenna Addis ELC

Ø  Behind the Scenes

Evacuteer.org is a small non-profit with two employees and two interns.  We have a traditional Board of Directors, as well as  an Executive Leadership Committee (ELC).  The ELC is comprised of 15 New Orleans residents volunteer for evacuteer.org, in addition to their everyday jobs.  They perform a variety of jobs involving outreach, training and Emergency Management roles focused around the operations and logistics in the event of a hurricane.

We receive funding from our contract with the City of New Orleans.  The contact officially designates evacuteer.org as the manager of all hurricane volunteers.  To supplement funds we also rely on private donations.  This includes the EvacuSpot installations where we raised $100,000 that was matched by the Arts Council of New Orleans through their program Percent for Art.

The main issue my site addresses is hurricane evacuation.  This includes public outreach to inform citizens about the CAE and help them locate their nearest EvacuSpot.  We also work to improve the CAE by looking at ways to make the evacuation process less stressful and more efficient.

Ø  Tulane Ties

My job requires me to wear many hats.  From grant proposals to teaching summer camps (right photo) I frequently use my knowledge gained at Tulane. For example, writing the summer camp curriculum requires me to draw on all my Environmental Studies classes from what makes a hurricane to how we prepare for them.  Also, the combined science and humanitarian approaches of my major allow me dual vision of objective science and empathic human relations to culminate a relational and sympathetic mindset when facing a disaster.

“For New Orleanians, evacuteer.org gives us a sense of

comfort and hope.  It means that our citizens, regardless

of means, can live free from fear.  

Only with this collective peace will our city continue

to grow and prosper, bringing its natives home,

and drawing new residents to take a risk and explore all

that New Orleans has to offer.” – John Micheal Ealry ELC

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