Disaster Response Workers Say FEMA Needs Housing Plan Soon

By Danielle Thomas - bio | email

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - FEMA will ask a federal judge on Wednesday to grant it immunity from lawsuits filed by evacuees who lived in FEMA trailers containing formaldehyde. FEMA doesn't cite a specific reason it should be dismissed from the lawsuit.

Meanwhile, some working in disaster response say they're troubled that government hasn't decided how it will meet emergency housing needs in the future.

Whether it's choosing an evacuation route or stocking extra food and water, the message at the Woolmarket Senior Citizens Center on Tuesday was clear, have a disaster plan. Harrison County's Civil Defense director said he wishes FEMA would do the same when it comes to emergency housing.

"They need to have a plan. They need to know what they're going to do. And if they're going to contract things out, like they've done some other services, let's step up and go ahead and start that process," Rupert Lacy said.

After Katrina, before FEMA came in with trailers, Lacy said local governments came up with their own kind of transitional housing for hurricane victims.

"Harrison County stepped up with the cities and municipalities in that we opened up tent cities, post-storm," said Lacy. "Not the most comfortable of living accommodations, but we did have a plan that we did put into action. Let's just hope that we don't have to do that again. We will be looking at tent cities. And all of our buildings are being built a little bit stronger and a little bit more shelter space for the long term."

These days one remaining tent city in D'Iberville houses volunteers, not hurricane victims. However, the director of the D'Iberville Volunteers Foundation said it's an option worth considering.

"Depending on how long you would have to use them, I think they're a viable alternative, in the beginning at least, to the use of FEMA trailers," said director Irene McIntosh. "They certainly have less carcinogens, and they were certainly easy to put together. I just think we need to look at a lot of different alternatives. "

Harrison County is looking at some alternatives should disaster strike before a federal emergency housing plan is in place.

"We would be looking at hotel rooms and rental assistance," said Lacy. "But we've learned from Katrina that we didn't have a lot of that after the storm, so that's going to affect our residents."

FEMA said it will form a task force to determine what type of housing will be used following a disaster.