Local News

Red Cross, RBC Center Team Up for Future Emergencies

Posted March 10, 2007 5:03 p.m. EST
Updated March 10, 2007 6:56 p.m. EST

— Hurricane Katrina sent most of New Orleans scrambling for higher ground in September of 2005, and hundreds of evacuees ended up at a vacant corporate training center in Raleigh. In less than 24 hours, it was converted to a shelter.

“Everyone got an eye opened when Katrina happened, when we had to see 50,000 or more people fleeing at one time, and an entire city evacuating,” said Barry Porter with the Triangle Red Cross.

Some 400 Raleigh, Wake County, and RBC Center employees partnered to make the shelter as comfortable as possible. It had space for sleeping and even a kitchen, but it wasn't perfect. Evacuees had to go to the RBC Center to shower.

That's why the Red Cross is teaming up with arenas like the RBC Center to develop a better plan.

“We have to start to think broader, deeper, and bigger in our strategies on how to deal with people who are going to relocate,” Porter said.

The RBC Center would be a perfect place for a mega-shelter, except for one major detail -- what do you do with all the events scheduled there and with all the people buying tickets for them?

“If we can address them in peacetime -- proactive rather than reactive -- then we're okay,” said Larry Perkins, the RBC Center's assistant general manager.

Perkins is also president of an international group made up of arena managers. That group is working with the Red Cross on ways to make better use of big facilities like the RBC Center.

“Our government can't do it alone,” Perkins said. “It's up to us to help our government and protect our citizens.”

Perkins said events could reschedule at other venues to allow the arena to stay open as a mega shelter. That's one of several things his group plans to study under the plan.