With a backdrop they called “painfully familiar,” members of the Tornado Recovery Action Council, or TRAC, released its 20 recommendations to Gov. Robert Bentley a day behind schedule Tuesday in light of Monday morning’s Jefferson County tornado.
The tornado killed at least three and injured at least 100 people, according to The Associated Press.
TRAC’s recommendations for dealing with disasters in Alabama, and tornadoes in particular, are divided into four chapters: prepare, warn, respond and recover.
The ideas for the recommendations were gleaned after the council held several community forums in September for residents who live in devastated areas to voice their opinions about how the state could have more efficiently dealt with the April 27 tornado aftermath.
The council also met with meteorologists, first responders and nonprofit agencies, said council co-chairman Pam Siddall.
“We spent a great deal of time making sure that we were covering everyone who was involved in the aftermath,” Siddall said.
TRAC Executive Director Ron Gray said the council’s objective was to come up with actionable ideas which could be implemented immediately. One of the areas of suggestions that can be quickly implemented, especially in regard to Monday’s tornado, is the “respond” chapter, he said.
For example, the chapter calls for increasing the number of Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, a group used to organize volunteers.
“We did a study about volunteers and the way they were coordinated,” Gray said. “In general, our recommendations on volunteer coordination are to enhance the organizations that are in place.
“The governor already has an office responsible for that, but we believe they should be elevated in importance.”
The first part of the report — the “prepare” chapter — contains a recommendation that could also serve in the “respond” portion, and it deals with power continuity.
TRAC recommends creating the “Alabama Utility Workgroup for Disaster Response, an industry group composed of representatives from electricity, natural gas, telecommunications and water providers,” the report states. Gray said he hopes entities such as TVA and Alabama Power can set up regular meetings to plan ahead.
“Both (Alabama Power and TVA) responded in heroic fashions,” he said. “But I do believe there is some benefit to those two major utility providers having regularly scheduled, work-group types of meetings. They can troubleshoot and talk about situations they may encounter in times of severe weather.”
This, too, would address many concerns about shortages on flashlights and bottles of water, because if utilities are restored quickly, those things will not be necessary, Gray said.
Gray said, the appreciation people showed during times of hardship made putting the report together a pleasure.
“One of the takeaways that came out of this project from my team’s standpoint was the incredible spirit of the people around the state,” he said. “We talked to people who had suffered greatly and dealt with things that were unimaginable, but they were committed to helping us do our job.”
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