Texans who want to to escape the next hurricane or other emergency by evacuation bus will first be submitted to criminal background checks, reports the Houston Chronicle. State emergency management director Jack Colley says the idea is to keep sex offenders and others who may be wanted by police off the same buses used by the most vulnerable during an evacuation: the elderly, disabled residents, and children.
Though the intent is to make sure vulnerable evacuees aren’t victimized, Colley acknowledged that culling sex offenders and other criminals from a herd of evacuees during a potentially chaotic evacuation comes with plenty of challenges. AT&T Inc. has contracted with the state to provide electronic wristbands for those residents wanting them, before they board an evacuation bus. The wristbands would be scanned by emergency management officials and the person’s name would be added to a bus boarding log. That person’s name and their bus information would be sent wirelessly to a University of Texas data center. When the evacuee arrives at a designated shelter, the wristband would be scanned again to help state employees respond to inquiries from the public about the safety and location of evacuated family members. After Hurricane Katrina, nearly 1,700 parolees failed to check in with authorities in Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. “We’re all entitled to privacy, but we’re not entitled to anonymity,” Colley said.