LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Arkansans helping Arkansans - that was standard practice long before the spring storms, tornadoes and flooding struck the state.
Now Arkansas business leaders are putting a new twist on neighborly help. Dozens are spreading the word of disaster assistance programs available to survivors, and their efforts may help thousands of their customers link up to the disaster assistance network or find a recovery center in their area.
From discount stores to utility companies and water districts to chambers of commerce, business leaders are telling tens of thousands of customers and associates about disaster assistance programs from the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). A number of the state's schools and universities are also informing their students and staffs about disaster assistance.
"Businesses and business organizations can activate powerful, ready-made communication networks when disaster strikes, and scores of Arkansas business people are stepping up to share this vital information," said State Coordinating Officer David Maxwell.
Stuffing FEMA fliers in purchase bags and printing messages on utility bills are a few of the tactics that businesses have adopted in their public outreach campaigns:
- Several Dollar General Stores in Pulaski County as well as some in Vilonia and other Faulkner County locations are tucking a multilingual disaster assistance flier in each customer's bag, reaching as many as 40,000 people.
- Several utilities are posting the recovery assistance message on their customers' monthly statements, including Lincoln County's C&L Electric Cooperative Corporation (20,000 customers), the Yorktown Water Association, Inc. (3,500 customers), the Hardin Water Association, Inc., Jefferson County (4,900 customers) and the Grand Prairie Regional Water Distribution District (5,200 customers). In Stuttgart, Arkansas County, the rural and city water services and the sanitation department also are posting the information on bills sent to more than 7,350 customers.
- The local cable company in Helena, Phillips County, is informing 4,500 subscribers about local disaster assistance on its public access channel.
Chambers of commerce - representing Fayetteville, Harrison, Hot Springs, Paragould, Saline, Walnut Ridge, West Memphis and other communities - are spreading the disaster application message to their membership by email or newsletters, reaching at least 30,000 business owners and contacts.
"Thanks to these efforts from the private sector, a customer who doesn't know about disaster aid can walk into a store or open a billing statement and learn about this help," said Federal Coordinating Officer Nancy M. Casper. "We're grateful that business leaders are partnering with ADEM and FEMA to help survivors."
Business owners and organization members who'd like to share disaster assistance or emergency preparedness information on their customer and contact networks can visit www.fema.gov