The New Orleans City Council adopted new laws Thursday for independent living centers, to ensure the city’s most vulnerable residents have access to vital resources during disasters. The rules represent City Hall's response to the deaths of seven elderly residents during the Hurricane Ida blackout, but some advocates worry it does not address an underlying failure in New Orleans' disaster response: lack of provisions for shelter and transportation.
“Before, during and for at least five brutally hot days after Hurricane Ida, when the power was out citywide, neither evacuation nor a local shelter were available in New Orleans,” Martha Kegel, executive director of UNITY of Greater of New Orleans, told the council. “We have a very large population of low-income seniors and people with disabilities in our city. The overwhelming majority of them do not live in senior apartment buildings.”
Following Ida blackout deaths and lawsuit, New Orleans targets independent living centers"> Following Ida blackout deaths and lawsuit, New Orleans targets independent living centers
Seven elderly people died after being left without power in sweltering apartments
Council member Kristin Gisleson Palmer, who pioneered the ordinance with Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration, promised it was only the first step in a more comprehensive effort to improve post-disaster procedures.
The administration's health director, Jennifer Avegno, said the rules are intended as a straightforward fix to foster better coordination between operators of independent living properties and city officials during disasters. Additional improvements are still being worked out, she said.
Avegno said the purpose is to ensure “that we know where our concentrations of vulnerable residents are.” “Not necessarily that one person here or there, but concentrations of vulnerable individuals that really heightened what we saw this time.”