Hurricane Katrina struck near the Louisiana-Mississippi border and became one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history, affecting a large geographic area and necessitating the evacuation of people from parts of the area, including vulnerable populations, such as hospital patients, nursing home residents and transportation-disadvantaged populations who were not in such facilities. The disaster highlighted the challenges involved in evacuating vulnerable populations due to hurricanes. GAO was asked to discuss efforts to plan and prepare for the needs of seniors in the event of a national emergency. GAO describes its ongoing work on evacuation in the event of emergencies, such as hurricanes, and provides preliminary observations on (1) challenges faced by hospital and nursing home administrators that are related to hurricane evacuations; (2) the federal program that supports the evacuation of patients needing hospital care and nursing home residents; and (3) challenges states and localities face in preparing for and carrying out the evacuation of transportation-disadvantaged populations and efforts to address evacuation needs. This testimony is based in part on a prior GAO report, Disaster Preparedness: Preliminary Observations on the Evacuation of Hospitals and Nursing Homes Due to Hurricanes, GAO-06-443R (February 16, 2006).
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