What was happening in the world ten years ago? The blood-sucking bestseller Twilight was introduced to teenagers (and, let’s be honest, moms) everywhere, Tom Cruise famously danced on Oprah’s sofa about his soon-to-be-scientologically-brainwashed bride and the very first video clip was uploaded to YouTube.
Oh, and my life was changed forever.
Now before you roll your eyes … know that I completely understand your frustration. It’s been ten years since Hurricane Katrina and we STILL classify past events and happenings here as “pre-Katrina” and “post-Katrina.” It’s our own sort of B.C./A.D. system. It’s crazy … but then most things in New Orleans are.
So don’t worry. I have no intention of going on and on about the details of my family’s evacuation and aftermath. I honestly probably already covered it all here, here and here. And here. I’m done for now. I just wanted to share one little memento. It’s a piece of paper I was handed through the window of my car at the police blockade on the interstate driving home to my city just two and half weeks after the storm hit. I saved it intentionally. And every time I read it, it brings me to my knees. For a while there, my city operated like a third world country.
The paper is entitled “New Orleans Safety & Security Re-Entry Information.” Following is a picture of each side of that original form. Beneath the photographs, I took the liberty of re-typing the whole thing right here in this blog post, just in case the photos are illegible on the small screen.
I keep meaning to frame it. (Remember, I said things in New Orleans are weird. And I’m one of those things.) The conditions we lived under were absolutely unthinkable. I encourage you to read it to the very end. You wouldn’t believe what some of us had to handle ourselves.
I love you, New Orleans. Even with your rising crime rate and your 100-degree scorchers. And I’m glad to have you back.
City of New Orleans
Safety & Security Re-Entry Information
On behalf of Mayor C. Ray Nagin and the City of New Orleans, welcome home! Please be advised that although we are slowly returning our city back to normal, there are some precautionary measures you need to know about and follow. We need your cooperation – Please read the following information carefully!
1. You are entering at your own risk. The City of New Orleans remains a hazardous site, and ongoing health and safety issues are being assessed. The City of New Orleans is still undergoing testing and recommends that you take great caution before entering the city and your premises, whether business or residential.
2. There is a curfew in place until further notice. This means you may not be outside between 6pm and 8am either in a vehicle or on foot. This will be strictly enforced. Keep personal identification with you at all times.
3. Police and fire services are limited. The 911 system is not fully functional at this time. ***For Police, fire and other emergencies, please call (504) 552-4830. ***
4. The traffic lights are out throughout the city. You are required to observe a city-wide speed limit of 35 mph, regardless of the posted limit and treat all intersections as four-way stops. Follow all street directions. Some roads may be blocked. Proceed with extreme caution, especially around downed pour lines. Report any downed power lines directly to Energy (see phone numbers on reverse).
5. You are not permitted to go beyond your designated zip code area and we recommend you travel within your zip code area only when absolutely necessary.
6. Access to medical services is extremely limited at this time. We are not prepared to handle critical care patients. You are advised to have tetanus, hepatitis-A and hepatitis-B vaccinations before entering the city.
7. The sewerage system has been compromised. With the exception of Algiers, you are advised not to drink, bathe or wash hands in water from your tap and we recommend the use of bottled water for all personal use until further notice. You may flush toilets.
8. Standing water and soil may be seriously contaminated. If you come in contact with standing water and material or supplies compromised by the flood water, you should wash with soap and clean water as soon as possible. We suggest you limit your exposure to airborne mold and use gloves, masks and other protective materials to protect yourself. You must supply your own protective equipment.
9. Food and water will not be provided to you. Bring sufficient food, water and any medical supplies required to sustain you and your family, keeping in mind curfew times and store inventories may limit access to these supplies. You must bring sufficient fuel with you before you enter the city. Gas stations are not fully operational. Fuel is limited.
10. Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Do not use fuel-burning devices indoors (e.g., gasoline or diesel generators or equipment, grills, etc.) Opening doors and windows or using fans will not prevent carbon monoxide build-up. Do not connect electrical power generators to the electrical panel or outlet of your home or business.
11. You are at your own risk to determine whether your home or business is structurally sound to enter. Use extra care when navigating upper floors and attic space.
12. No temporary housing is currently available within the city for returning evacuees. Such temporary housing may not be available within the city for 6 months. Returning residents whose homes are not habitable must leave the city by 6pm each day.
Debris & Refuse Removal
1. Please exercise caution in removing debris when entering your business or home to minimize the risk of injury. Steel-toed boots, work gloves and goggles/safety glasses are recommended around debris.
2. Open all windows when entering a building. If you smell gas or hear the sound of escaping gas, leave the premises and contact Energy immediately at the number below. Avoid creating any source of ignition. If you start to feel sick, dizzy or weak, get to fresh air right away.
3. To greatly improve the speed of our trash and debris collection, we ask residents to separate debris into piles at the curbside for collection using the following categories:
- household garbage (dispose as usual)
- tree debris and clean wood
- carpet, sheet rock, insulation, flooring and furniture
- roofing materials
- appliances: refrigerators (empty of contents), stoves, air conditioners
4. We are working on a program to handle household hazardous waste (pesticides, paint, solvents, automotive fluids, cleaning products) which will be available at a later time. In the meantime, store these items in a safe place.
Standing Water, Mold & Bacteria
1. Contaminated floodwater contains micro-organisms that penetrate deep into soaked, porous material and later can be released into air or water. Remove standing water as quickly as possible while minimizing direct contact.
2. Every effort should be made to limit your contact with flood water, including breathing water vapor or mist coming from pumps or dehumidifiers.
3. To reduce the risk of mold and bacteria, remove wet materials (e.g., wood, paper, clothing) and discard those that cannot be thoroughly cleaned or dried, ideally within 48 hours.
4. Illness can result from contact with an open cut or wound. Clean cuts and abrasions thoroughly with soap and drinkable water and apply antibiotic ointment. Always wash your hands and body with soap and warm, clean, drinkable water.
5. Pay special attention to not putting your hands in your mouth or on objects that could go into your mouth such as cigarettes or water bottles.
6. If you know you are immuno-compromised, have underlying respiratory problems, such as asthma or allergies, you should consider not returning until further environmental and health assessments are complete.
General Tips & Important Phone Numbers
Apply mosquito repellent and sunscreen. The use of waterless, alcohol-based sanitizing rubs is recommended. Bring plenty of fresh water.
- Police, Fire & Emergency: 1-504-552-4830
- Red Cross: 1-800-435-7669
- Remains Management: 1-225-763-5480, 1-225-763-5760
- Entergy (Gas & Electric): 1-800-368-3749, 1-800-968-8243
- FEMA Assistance Register: 1-800-631-FEMA (3362), TTY 1-800-462-7585
“Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans
When that’s where you left your heart?”
– Eddie DeLange and Louis Alter