NEW ORLEANS, La. (January 9, 2009) â" Today Disaster Accountability Project releases its finding after a week of evaluating the disaster plans for vulnerable parishes and counties in Louisiana and Mississippi.
Disaster Accountability Project rated local government disaster and evacuation plans based on a 23-point set of criteria. These criteria include online accessibility to plans, provisions for the disabled and elderly, adequacy of communication during a disaster, and whether there is a clear hierarchy for decisions during an emergency.
"This exercise in requesting disaster plans is just a taste of the ways ordinary citizens can provide oversight of local, state, and federal emergency preparedness and response management. Ultimately, parish and county leaders are doing their constituents a disservice by not providing the most comprehensive, up-to-date, and accessible plans." said Ben Smilowitz, Founder and Executive Director of the Disaster Accountability Project. "The next FEMA Administrator should prioritize transparency, accountability, and citizen engagement in preparednessâ"on all levels, as that is key to both personal preparedness and ensuring disaster relief services are delivered effectively."
Jeanne Abadie of the Advocacy Center, the protection and advocacy organization for people with disabilities in Louisiana, issued the following statement:
"By requesting and reviewing parish plans throughout southern Louisiana and Mississippi, the Disaster Accountability Project volunteers were able to identify for parishes and counties areas of strength along with areas of the plan that may need to be improved."
Disaster Accountability Project plans to submit Freedom of Information Requests (FOIA) to officials in Tangipahoa, St. Tammany, Terrebonne, St. Charles and St. John the Baptist Louisiana parishes, as these parishes offered no public access to their disaster plans and refused to grant our evaluation teams access to this public information.
Disaster Accountability Project is a nonpartisan organization providing accountability and oversight to the nation's disaster prevention, response, relief, and recovery systems through monitoring and policy research. The Disaster Accountability Project's website is
http://www.DisasterAccountability.org . A toll-free hotline (866-9-TIP-DAP) is available as a public service for disaster survivors, workers and volunteers to report critical gaps in disaster prevention, response, relief, and recovery services or planning. The group is recruiting a national network of Disaster Accountability Monitors and Bloggers to help report, verify, and publicize gaps in disaster services or planning. Disaster Accountability Project is a 2008 Echoing Green Fellowship Organization.
For more information: http://www.echoinggreen.org/fellows/ben-smilowitz