Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism to test COVER, the Communication of Vacancies Emergency Response Plan May 26-30.

Thursday, May 26, 2011 ~ Updated 1:49 PM

The Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism will begin testing COVER -"Communication of Vacancies Emergency Response" system on May 26. COVER is activated when an emergency forces evacuation from surrounding areas into Arkansas.

In addition to using COVER during an emergency, the system will be tested during busy holidays. Travelers can use the system to find lodging availability information for last minute travel plans. The test will take place during the Memorial Day weekend beginning on May 26, 2011 at 12:00 p.m., ending on May 30, 2011 at 9:00 a.m.

COVER website links are www.arkansas.com/cover and http://cover.arkansas.com

Lodging facilities needing assistance with COVER should contact info@arkansas.com

To watch an informative video about this new website, go to http://youtu.be/GmyVGCw3BDQ

Information about COVER:

While coastal areas work diligently to help evacuees exit affected areas, states like Arkansas open their doors to many of those looking for lodging. During Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated 1.1 million people over the age of 16 were forced to evacuate their homes. Throughout the evacuation, most of those driving through Arkansas were unfamiliar with secondary roads and stayed on major highways in search of overnight accommodations. Because of this, many evacuees drove past available rooms. This caused a huge problem--hotels located on major thoroughfares had no vacancies while other lodging properties near secondary routes remained open with ample availability.

To help prevent similar problems in the future, the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism developed a website to assist travelers. In the event of another mass evacuation, COVER will be activated. Lodging managers will begin entering their number of available rooms onto the website. Travelers will be able to enter their email address or cell phone number to receive messages along their journey with lodging updates. Also, those that follow Twitter can follow #ARKCOVER for updates during a crisis. In time of emergency, the media in the affected area will be notified about the activation of COVER. A link to the COVER main page will appear on Arkansas.com. Once on the road, travelers with smart phones may access COVER information in a mobile format at http://cover.arkansas.com.

For more information, contact Dena Woerner at dena.woerner@arkansas.gov or 501-682-7606.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: