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FEMA Considers Boats as Disaster Housing for Sandy Victims

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is considering housing victims of Hurricane Sandy at sea.

The agency Tuesday released a solicitation seeking only information on the possibility of putting disaster victims in New York and New Jersey on boats.

In asking for input on “maritime-based solutions for providing interim housing to disaster survivors,” FEMA said it would like to gather “information about immediately or rapidly available, cost-effective interim housing vessel-based solutions with climate appropriate designs allowing disaster survivors — including those with access and functional needs — to carry out normal day to day activities, and facilitating recovery while they seek permanent housing.”

FEMA cautioned it was not seeking information on cruise ships, but that it would consider other vessels with appropriate design, capability, availability and experience for potential contracts that would involve production, transportation, living arrangements, maintenance and demobilization.

The agency is seeking information only and has not yet determined if it will purchase such services or release a request for proposals to buy them.

“Should FEMA determine that maritime-based interim housing solutions are in the best interest of disaster survivors, then potential government contracts might include factors such as speed of delivery, cost-effectiveness, quality of the habitation (including survivor safety), possible proximity to survivors’ pre-disaster dwellings, experience, and past performance. Preference would likely be given for US flagged vessels,” FEMA said in its request for information.

Although FEMA and other federal, state and local agencies previously have rescued or evacuated people from disasters by boat, the idea of housing them on boats seems to be a new idea.

FEMA drew widespread criticism after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 for its use of trailers that were found to contain unhealthy levels of formaldehyde. The agency has shied away from the use of mobile homes in the years since Katrina, preferring to place disaster survivors in hotels, apartments or other types of housing when possible.

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