Alabama’s recovery from the deadly April 2011 tornado outbreak is taking a “whole community” approach, says Federal Coordinating Officer Joe Girot.
“By ‘whole community,’ I’m talking about neighbors helping neighbors, the private sector working with the local, state and federal governments, the volunteers, the faith-based groups – all of us coming together as one team,” Girot says. “It’s the only way for true recovery to occur, and it’s working here.”
FEMA demonstrated its commitment to that approach by hosting the September 14 visit to the Birmingham Joint Field Office of the Tornado Recovery Action Council of Alabama. TRAC is the 19-member group of community, corporate and non-profit leaders that Gov. Robert Bentley appointed from across the state to help Alabama’s storm-stricken communities emerge stronger and more resilient.
Birmingham, AL, September 14, 2011 -- At a meeting in the Birmingham Joint Field Office, FEMA long term recovery team member John Boyle talks with state and federal emergency managers and visiting members of the Tornado Recovery Action Council of Alabama. FEMA Photo/Ruth Kennedy
The group has held TRAC meetings statewide in these communities to hear first hand from survivors on what worked and did not work in the hours and moments before and after the tornadoes struck. They also heard residents’ suggestions on ways to better prepare communities against future disasters, and their hopes for recovery.
Gov. Bentley charged TRAC members to develop actionable recommendations to help the state and its citizens better prepare for and respond to the next major natural disaster. With that mandate, TRAC members were eager to learn about the many layers of effort involved in the recovery – from local, state and federal agencies, as well as non-government organizations (NGOs). They particularly wanted to know more about the Long-Term Community Recovery (LTCR) process now revitalizing tornado-ravished communities.
At the September 14 meeting, federal and state emergency management leaders presented the TRAC group with information on the powerful synergy of the six Recovery Support Functions (RSF’s) in FEMA’s Emergency Support Function #14 (ESF #14), and the six task forces of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affair (ADECA): community planning and capacity building; economic recovery; health and social services; housing; infrastructure systems; and natural and cultural resources. TRAC members learned how the melding of these federal and state resources is empowering communities to move ahead with their long-term recovery efforts.
For instance, nearly a dozen Alabama communities are tapping into the planning resources of LTCR to begin their own redevelopment strategies. Those efforts are scheduled to be completed later this fall.