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Abstract: In late summer 2005, Hurricane Katrina--the worst natural disaster in U.S. history--wreaked havoc along the Gulf Coast, causing massive loss of life and property damage. (Just a few weeks later, Hurricane Rita would inflict even more suffering across much of the same area.) The evacuation of special needs individuals (e.g., the institutionalized, those with medical conditions, people without access to cars, etc.) from New Orleans was especially problematic, not simply in getting people out of the city but also in tracking who had gone where, letting their families know what had happened to them, caring for them properly in receiving areas, and repatriating them to their homes and loved ones.
Learning Objective: Illustrating the challenges health officials and political leaders faced in evacuating people with special needs during Katrina and Rita, this case prompts readers to consider the complexities of managing a critical public safety function as response plans are upended and capabilities overwhelmed.