Since deadly tornadoes struck Alabama and much of the southeast last month, emergency management teams from every level of government have been working tirelessly to aid survivors and the impacted communities. Administrator Fugate always says that FEMA is one part of the team, and our state, local, tribal, private sector, voluntary and faith-based partners have been demonstrating the importance of working together as part of that team every day since the storms.
With that in mind, I wanted to highlight a story from the New York Times last week about the leadership and foresight of Mayor Walter Maddox of Tuscaloosa. Just after the storms passed, local first responders went to work on meeting survivors’ immediate needs in the damaged areas. The initial response was critical.
An hour after the tornado hit, [Mayor Maddox] realized the damage was worse than he could have imagined. Power was out. The emergency communication system was inoperable. He even thought the city might lose its water supply.
As he watched hundreds of hurt and stunned residents wandering out of the destruction, he said he thought, “How am I going to help all these people?”
Just before he drove into the deepest part of the destruction that night, he and a police chaplain stopped their car and bowed their heads.
“That 30 seconds of prayer renewed our focus,” he said in an interview in his office last week.
Prayer is not all he has in his arsenal. Two years ago, he sent 60 city workers for Federal Emergency Management Agency training, a stroke of foresight he said has done more to help Tuscaloosa handle the disaster than anything else.
It’s a good reminder that even as we support our state and local partners in the recovery from the last disaster, we need to be ready for the next disaster, too. Which is why we FEMA offers emergency preparedness courses and integrated programs through our Center for Domestic Preparedness, Emergency Management Institute, and National Training and Education Division. These facilities and programs serve as the national focal point for the development and delivery of emergency management training to enhance the capabilities of state, local, tribal and territorial government officials, volunteer organizations, and the public and private sectors to minimize the impact of disasters and emergencies on the American public.
In many cases, training for state, local, or tribal government emergency responder is offered at little to no cost to the local jurisdiction. More information on these training programs and courses can be found here: http://www.fema.gov/training.
Our prayers and the support of the federal government are with Governor Bentley, Mayor Maddox and the rest of the team in Alabama and other states in their ongoing recovery efforts.