Removing Debris Removes Obstacles To Recovery

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Release date: 
June 12, 2008
Release Number: 
1761-024

ATLANTA, Ga. --Mother Nature?s early May fury delivered a one-two punch to thousands in Georgia. Along with damage to or total loss of their homes, people have also had to face dangerous mounds of debris on their property and throughout their communities. But Georgians are receiving state, federal and voluntary agency assistance to tackle the problem.

About 26 voluntary agencies responded to the Georgia disaster including the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army; three have played a critical role in the cleanup of debris.

Assistance in clearing private property has come with the helping hands and esprit de corps of three voluntary agencies ? the Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief Ministry, the North Carolina-based Samaritan?s Purse and the Georgia office of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).

Within days the agencies gathered volunteers who rolled up their sleeves, picked up chainsaws or manned Bobcat skid steers (self-propelled compact loaders) to begin the cleanup.

?This has been a monumental effort,? said Jerry Harfoot, FEMA?s Voluntary Agency Liaison. ?FEMA values the efforts and assistance from voluntary agencies to help a community trying to recover from disasters.?

Voluntary organizations are an important part of FEMA?s mission to provide support and guidance to states recovering from disaster. Once an emergency requires the attention of the state and the disaster has been declared by the president, the FEMA Voluntary Agency Liaison (VAL), located at the disaster site, contacts the voluntary agencies to update them with situation information. Upon declaration, the FEMA VAL schedules and conducts a coordinating meeting with the primary responding
voluntary agencies.

One of those agencies, Samaritan?s Purse, is affiliated with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and has offices and staff worldwide. Their volunteers took 650 work orders from Georgia families needing their assistance. More than 150 volunteers picked up debris, much of it large trees.

UMCOR joined Samaritan?s Purse in Bibb County and cleaned up debris from 36 homes. They have 13 more work orders to complete when more volunteer teams arrive.

Stuart Lang, disaster relief director for the Georgia Baptist Convention said the response to help Georgians was overwhelming. ?We were aided by volunteers from North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida.? Those volunteers completed 450 jobs or requests for debris removal.

?We appreciate the work these agencies do,? said Jeff Bryant, FEMA?s federal coordinating officer. ?Volunteers help people by providing the extra assistance ? and the enthusiasm ? to recover.?

The Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are helping to fund the removal of debris in streets and public rights of way. A task force of county and state interests led by FEMA has been on the ground in hardest hit Bibb County since day one of the disaster to handle the issue. Debris removal began with an emergency push to clear the streets, followed by another sweep to pick up what was moved into the rights of way. Nearly 400,000 cubic yards ? mostly vegetative matter ? is on the ground in Bibb County and in the City of Macon. This amount alone would fill 70 million gallon containers.

?About 30 percent of the debris in the disaster-declared counties has been picked up,? said GEMA Deputy State Coordinating Officer Joe McKinney. ?And that is a rough estimate. We?ll be working with all the affected counties for as long as it takes.?

As debris removal in the 13 declared counties continues so does the work of the task force to assist local governments, applicants for GEMA/FEMA Public Assistance. A debris specialist has been added to the force, pitching in to advise applicants.

?Some of the advice is on h...

Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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