BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – After the April storms and tornadoes destroyed thousands of homes and businesses across two-thirds of Alabama, a large-scale response and recovery effort was needed. A significant part of that effort was Alabama’s private sector, which continues to play a key role in the state’s recovery.
Recovery from such devastation involves local, state and federal agencies, voluntary agencies, faith-based organizations and the state’s private sector, including the business community, utilities, banking industry, insurance industry and other organizations.
In Alabama, the private sector assisted in getting survivors to register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, provided advertising about disaster assistance, worked with the state and FEMA to help survivors with banking and insurance issues and generally supported the effort to help communities and survivors.
“The private sector is essential to a strong recovery effort,” said Jeff Byard, state coordinating officer for the Alabama Emergency Management Agency. “These organizations have done a wonderful job helping people get back on their feet.”
At the outset of the disaster response, specialists with the private sector component of FEMA’s external affairs operation deployed to Alabama and began working with 65 chambers of commerce in 43 counties, industry groups, colleges and other organizations.
They met with employers to spread the word about how survivors could apply for disaster assistance. They produced an electronic newsletter that provided outreach to more than 400,000 people. They worked with utility companies to include FEMA registration information on billing statements, reaching nearly 2 million customers. They supplied information to banks to assist in the cashing of FEMA assistance checks.
Outdoor advertising was donated on billboards that reached over 1 million people every day. The University of Alabama Athletic Department and the NFL Players Association helped arrange public service appearances and announcements by athletes.
The private sector played a key role in assisting the state with other big initiatives, including the Safer Alabama Summit, a series of Housing and Recovery Expos and the Alabama Municipal League Expo.
Large retailers such as Wal-Mart, Marvin’s Home Improvement Stores, Lowe’s, Ace Hardware and Home Depot made stores available for FEMA staff to provide information about building safer homes.
“The whole community is engaged in the recovery,” said Michael F. Byrne, federal coordinating officer for FEMA. “The private sector has helped us get the word out about registration, assistance and building a stronger, safer, more resilient Alabama.”
FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we...