New disaster shelter system announced

Federal officials on Tuesday announced a new national shelter system to help locate temporary housing for victims of hurricanes and other natural disasters.

The shelter system is a key part of preparations for hurricane season, which begins June 1.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Craig Fugate, the new director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, called for the public to help prepare for storms, mostly by devising family evacuation plans.

“We are only going to be as successful as the public is prepared,” Fugate said. “There are a lot of folks who are going to need very specific help that should not have to compete with the rest of us.”


Fugate was sworn into office on Tuesday.

He and Napolitano briefed governors and emergency-management officials from more than a dozen hurricane-prone states via video teleconference. They plan to tour federal facilities in Miami on Friday to assess emergency preparedness.

The shelter system will form a nationwide database of thousands of places to go in an emergency. It includes a variety of housing, including trailers.

“Often times in a really big disaster, people may have to leave the area while housing is rebuilt,” Napolitano said.

FEMA also is developing a security communications system to allow officials to communicate with many states and jurisdictions at the same time.