New Orleans, La. – Hundreds of volunteers have signed up to be part of Evacuteer-dot-org. Program founder Robert Fogarty is coordinating residents who can help neighbors get out of harm's way. The idea began when he was in New Orleans with AmeriCorps, and helped the city evacuate ahead of Hurricane Gustav in 2008. About 400 people showed up to direct evacuees to buses and trains headquartered at the Union Passenger Terminal. Hundreds more have signed on to do it again if needed this year.
Fogarty says some volunteers will work at 17 pickup stations throughout the city. Others will be at the train station, directing residents to transportation out of the city. At a recent training session, students posed as residents, and volunteers helped get them through the process.
"They're all a part of the mayor's Youth Program. So they were the ones doing the role players as the evacuees. So these kids had tags that said I have a gun' or I'm 55 and in a wheelchair.' They all played it really, really well. They went through the process three times. They went though, got back on the bus, went through again and each time they had a different role."
Laine Frye helps direct fellow volunteers. She says the images after Hurricane Katrina drive her to help people evacuate.
"It's an emotional topic. After you've seen that it gives you a real motivation to get people out. And so whatever I can do, whatever skills I can bring to the table to make that a smooth process or as smooth as possible, that's why I decided to get involved and stay involved and just do as much as I can."
Deputy Mayor Jerry Sneed says he's grateful for the extra help.
"City workers will be doing other things and then non-essential city workers are going to evacuate just like everybody else so we have to replace those people. We need help in moving our citizens so volunteers are essential."
Mayor Mitch Landrieu says he will order an evacuation if a Category 3 or stronger hurricane threatens the city. He says there will be no shelter of last resort if that time comes.
For WWNO, I'm Eileen Fleming.