Local emergency officials have discussed this idea for some time, but last summer's experience in New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina reminded local officials of the potential disaster of leaving disabled or handicapped individuals stranded. Houston's Office of Emergency Management is tasked with creating the registry and Joe Laud of that office says the time to act is now.
"In the past we have the experience that when the evacuation order is called and a disaster has occurred there were citizens out there who needed special aid that we could not track down and this mission's effort is to get that information in before any event occurs."
Laud says they're working with local social service agencies and other organizations that work regularly with local residents with special needs. He says residents of assisted living center or nursing home don't need to be on this registry since those facilities are already required by law to provide resident information to the state. Laud says this local registry is looking for people who live in their own homes, but have special needs.
"We're looking for individual's names, location, where they live, a contact number, a phone number, anything, if they have pets, what kind of aid they require for example, if they're in a wheelchair, if they're bed ridden, those kind of items."
Laud says he has no idea of how many people might eventually be on the registry. He says last year, they sent out surveys with the hopes of creating a registry like this, but Laud says the response was disappointing. Laud says they received fewer than 200 responses so, he's hoping this effort is more successful.
"From our respondings from last year's survey, it was quite surprising that only a handful came in and we were expecting an abundance especially because of the size of the city of Houston and until we start receiving the surveys back that's the only way we'll be able to tell how many are out there."
Registry forms are available from home service providers including Meals on Wheels, AAA, the Houston Health Department and the Houston Office of Emergency's website. A link is available on our website kuhf.org