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Faith-Based Organizations and Sustainable Sheltering Operations in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina: Implications for Informal Network Utilization

  • Anjali T. Pant (a1), Thomas D. Kirsch (a1), Italo R. Subbarao (a1), Yu-Hsiang Hsieh (a1) and Alexander Vu (a1)...



In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, a significant number of faith-based organizations (FBOs) that were not a part of the formal National Response Plan (NRP) initiated and sustained sheltering operations.


The objective of this study was to examine the sheltering opera-tions of FBOs, understand the decision-making process of FBO shelters, and identify the advantages and disadvantages of FBO shelters.


Verbal interviews were conducted with FBO shelter leaders. Inclusion criteria were: (1) opening in response to the Katrina disaster; (2) oper-ating for more than three weeks; and (3) being a FBO. Enrolled shelters were examined using descriptive data methods.


The majority of shelters operating in Mississippi up to three weeks post-Katrina were FBO-managed. All of the operating FBO shelters in Mississippi that met the inclusion criteria were contacted with a response rate of 94%. Decisions were made by individuals or small groups in most shelters regarding opening, operating procedures, and closing. Most FBOs provided at least one enabling service to evacuees, and all utilized informal networks for sheltering operations. Only 25% of FBOs had disaster plans in place prior to Hurricane Katrina.


Faith-based organization shelters played a significant role in the acute phase of the Katrina disaster. Formal disaster training should be ini-tiated for these organizations. Services provided by FBOs should be standard-ized. Informal networks should be incorporated into national disaster planning.


Corresponding author

Correspondence: Anjali T. Pant, MD, MPH New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Medical College of Cornell University Emergency Medicine 525 East 68th Street New York, NY 10021 E-mail:


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