After the Tornadoes

Obviously, at least to me, post-tornado action will depend greatly on the level of destruction and injuries to you and others close to you. If, as in my case this time, no injuries and no significant damage to my property, would suggest slowly spreading out one’s universe. Check on and assist where necessary your immediate neighbors. Grow your universe, checking on and offering support to people who live near you. The support can be as simple as assisting with the opening of garage doors, or as complex as performing first aid and calling first responders to deal with injuries or starting the removal of fallen debris from roofs and or the streets.

Would offer that in the first hours, that those areas more than 2 or 3 miles away from you can in fact wait a while longer and all that is going to happen by rushing to an area that has more damage than you, is increase the chaos in an area that the last thing needed is un-managed rescue and recovery, and won’t even discuss the stupidity of going to an area for the sole purpose of getting some “cool” pictures.

I can’t speak for any other area than Huntsville Al and surrounding communities, but last Wednesday, the local Emergency Management teams were very quickly setting up coordination points where access was managed and a somewhat logical approach to the searching process for injured and worse could proceed where the actual tornadoes had wrecked their havoc.

In the Huntsville area, 4 tornadoes had “ripped” up about 50 square miles out of a 800 square mile area. Yes terrible but less than 7 percent of the total area. About 240 homes were destroyed out of about 100,000, 176 people were injured and 7 people were killed, and yes this terrible but putting it in some perspective: the population of Madison county is over 300,000

It was not until late Thursday that much anything was going on that was NOT related to search and rescue in the areas directly impacted by these terrible storms. Although earlier that day the neighborhoods NOT directly affected were doing what they could do to restore their neighborhoods, whether it was deploying neighborhood generators to save food, or serious street clearing, or dealing with minor injuries. After 4 or 5 hours of helping my neighbors, I decided that the best thing that I could do is get my family out of the damaged area(an area that had power). After driving a couple of hours found an area that had NOT lost power and had lodging available for the next 4 days. After settling in I drove back to Huntsville to offer my services/skill set to the Red Cross.

Monday, as the power was being restored to the area, and a significant number of people were available to assist in the recovery effort, the local emergency management people were able to do a very good job of coordinating the effort which I am sure is just starting. People with special skills and or special tools were being deployed where they could have the most effect, and those who were sent out were dressed for the job… One of the local media outlets, showed an irate citizen who was only wearing a pair of shorts, and flip-flops being turned away.

My observation(s). FEMA was not exactly Mr. Johnnie on the spot, perhaps understandable. The local support was AWESOME! whether it be local chapters of the national organizations (Red Cross, Salvation Army) or local religious organizations, or other local organizations (food banks, homeless shelters, etc.) The Local Emergency Management people/organizations were fully functional and providing coordination throughout the area. Unlike other disasters(Katrina) when FEMA did arrive they were able to work WITH the local resources people and were fully functional very shortly thereafter.

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