Posted by: Albie Lewis, Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator
The April 2011 tornado outbreak in Alabama was so extensive and devastating that our long-term community recovery staff became engaged with the state and local communities from day one. It has become one of the largest deployments of ESF#14 since the program began in 2004.
This is the first time a federal disaster recovery coordinator has been tasked to run the program throughout the entire recovery process. Along with our state partner, the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, we are coordinating and advancing projects with 20 state and federal agencies.
Within days of the storms, we embedded key project and planning professionals with local governments to assess the damage and provide assistance. These individuals answered city officials’ top question: Where do we go from here and how do we get there?
The sooner we can get out to the disaster areas and work with the community the better the chances are for a successful recovery. The recovery will take years, but the early accomplishments can cement community investment in the process.
We work with the community by putting on a series of workshops led by a local recovery committee. We encourage city officials, business owners and all residents to participate. We also ask high school students, the city’s future taxpayers, to participate and comment on the preliminary plan. Once all the data is collected, our staff analyzes it and a plan is developed.
Rainsville citizens share their ideas for rebuilding their community during a long-term meeting with FEMA's ESF#14 team.
Depending on the scope of what is needed, this final product can range from a detailed report to a full-fledged plan that includes a specific community development guide, with costs and information on where funding and resources may be available. The full-fledged plan, designed to encourage sustainable building practices, is then used by city officials and the community to help solicit funding. It also serves as a guide for development.
The residents of each community are creating a unique plan that reflects local needs and is based on their specific vision of how to rebuild. It will take a long time for these towns and cities to recover, but we will continue to be a partner as they implement their community plan.
Our long-term recovery specialists met with leaders of the 15 most severely damaged communities to provide information about partnering with FEMA and ADECA. We also enlisted support from nonprofits, religious organizations, chambers of commerce and other local resources.
FEMA Long-Term Community Recovery Specialists, professional designers, urban planners, architects, ESF-14 recovery specialists and commmunity members participate in an outreach and information meeting at First Baptist Church in Hackleburg.
To date, nine communities have officially requested to participate in the LTCR program.
More may sign on. We have found that the key to program success is involving the community in its own recovery, such as identifying what they want and need and coming up with a clear and common vision.