Hurricane Katrina Emergency Identification

Situation: In Austin there are approximately 4,000 Hurricane Katrina evacuees living at our convention center in Downtown.

Problem: Most evacuees have lost all forms of identification. Certain logistics are preventing the DMV from responding to this situation.

Solution: Create Katrina Emergency Cards for evacuees.

One of my business friends and I decided to donate our time in a unique way: Create a full-fledged operation in two days to assist the city of Austin in providing identification cards for the evacuees from New Orleans.

We have already had discussions with the head Austin city planner in charge of the evacuees, and he loved the idea and wants us to start soon as possible. Robert will further explain in this video:

Hurricane Katrina Video

Robert owned several ID companies in the past, therefore he has experience in the identification industry. He still has much of his equipment, including $20,000 ID card printers and a $35,000 holographic film generator. He also has hookups like you wouldn’t believe.

One business idea I had come to Robert with just possibly got a big jumpstart. ExpressID’s might now become a reality faster than I expected in order to help the Katrina evacuees staying in Austin. However, instead of being for profit, Express ID’s will be for charity.

To get a better idea of the situation, we decided to volunteer inside the Austin Convention Center which is hosting the evacuees. Video:

This was one snapshot of the inside:

Robert has already spoke to the to the decision makers to make this a reality, so Saturday night we started taking care of some smaller things things like business cards:

I usually party on Saturday, but instead Robert and I will work through the night to get the smaller details out of the way: Business cards printed, signs made, ID card design finished, contacting people and configuring the ID equipment.

We had a friend of Roberts whip up a few sample cards, this was the first he gave back. This most likely will not be the selected card:

If this is going to happen, it will be a combined effort of many people donating their time, talent, money and resources. We are aiming to roll out 2,000 ID cards by Monday.

In a matter of 24 hours, we have:

  • Come up with an idea
  • Talked to the right people – Several major banks have agreed to endorse the card for check-cashing and we already have approval from the guy running evacuee operation.
  • Created a Project Image - Things run a lot smoother when you’re organized.
  • Got Website Up – The ExpressID’s website is by no means perfect, but it’s up.
  • Got donors – Robert obtained donors willing to fund the project. If we end up replicating this process in Houston and other places, it will cost a significant amount.

I decided to document this whole process. Even though this is a volunteer effort, in many ways it is much like starting up a company. We’ve been taking video with my Casio Exilim EX-S500 at every step:

We’ve recieved the permission from the proper authorities and we have the resrouces to carry this project out quickly. It will be interesting to see how it goes!

Blog posted on: September 11, 2005

13 comments on “Hurricane Katrina Emergency Identification

  1. savvy saver

    I’m not clear on a couple things… how are you verifying these people’s true identities? Also, under what authority are you making these card?

    This sounds like a great idea. I just can’t think of any use that I would have for an ID created by a non-government agency, unless it was outsourced from an employer or school.

  2. nickel

    Yeah, I don’t get this either. What good is an ID card made by a couple of guys that happen to have the proper equipment? How did you get banks to endorse this idea? Do you have some foolproof way of identify people’s identity before making them a card? And are you building any security features into your cards such that others can make counterfeits?

  3. Anonymous

    “Several major banks have agreed to endorse the card for check-cashing and we already have approval from the guy running evacuee operation.”

    I think you actually DID PARTY on Saturday, got HIGH, posted this NONSENSE.

  4. Anonymous

    That’s pretty cool what you’re doing for the Katrina victims.

    I never thought ID cards would be a problem until you mentioned it. I’m guessing the previous commentors don’t realize that some people have nothing left in their name. They have no identity except a paper wristband. Makes sense.

    I wonder how come the DPS or DMW hasn’t reacted to this problem?

    Cool blog by the way.

  5. nickel

    To one of the anonymous posters above… I’m perfectly aware that Katrina victims lost everything, including their paperwork. This doesn’t make the IDs a more workable idea, though. In fact, it makes it even harder, as it’s all the more difficult to for people to prove who they are. You can’t just take them at their word if you hope for these IDs to be taken seriously.

  6. Jay's Financial Blog

    So, this is the BIG idea/new business that we have all been waiting for? Yikes Nev! As much as I would like to say that the idea is awesome — it isn’t…unless your goal is to outsorce card making for local businesses who need employee security cards — like many others have said….your ID cards are are not legal Ids..

  7. Anonymous

    I would agree that the ID’s need to be endorsed by someone but it appears from the post that they are making them through the city. What you guys might want to do is do child id cards. It it not as important but would let them locate a child if they are lost. You got to think they are even more lost now being in a city so far away from home.

  8. Anonymous

    Interesting blog–I’ve been reading for a few months, but this is my first post.

    I like that it literally reintroduces to evacuees a sense of identity after something this devastating. As I’ve worked extensively in emergency response (under the Red Cross and Office of Emergency Management), I can say that an actual ID card would be something many would value enormously.

    That said, I’m surprised that anyone outside of shelter security would accept the IDs (since the opportunity for fraudulent use is high). But I could see it as a tool to identify people as they enter and leave the shelter.

    One note: as you document this project, please do not take any pictures of evacuees without their explicit consent.

  9. Neville


    I’m guessing I didn’t quite articulate some details properly.

    1.) There are different uses for ID cards including medical info, emergency contact info, kid cards, identifying who was originally at the shelter (for extended aid purposes) and many more. We had no intention of these ID’s replacing drivers licenses.

    2.) These cards are 100% legal, just not official. This is why we had banks and the officials endorse them for legitimacy.

    3.) This wasn’t some big scheme to make money or start a company, this was just a unique way of volunteering. There are already too many volunteers in Austin offering their time.

    4.) These ID’s follow the concept of an AAA card. Having an account with them means you belong to their group. As people leave the convention center for other accommodations, they are still entitled to a certain amount of aid and donated supplies. Previously, the paper wristband was the only method of identifying who those people are. This was an attempt to make it a bit more official and secure.


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