Plans to credential volunteers postponed indefinitely

Katherine Martin

Mayor Walt Maddox has postponed the requirement for volunteers to be credentialed to work in recovery zones. The city announced the decision late Friday night, and Maddox explained his reasoning at today’s press conference.

“What we did not want to do was slow up the efforts of those that are going out to help out citizens, understanding that we will have a credential process that’s in place, we just need more time to develop it,” Maddox said. “I would rather us be patient to put together an organization model that can help our citizens then trying to meet an arbitrary deadline.”

The volunteer registration center, located at the McAbee Center, is open today, and the rest of the week, from 8 a.m until 7 p.m., Maddox said.

“Today over 2,500 people have been through the registration center, and that’s who we know of,” he said. “There are thousands of people who are with affiliated groups, whether it be Samaritan’s Purse, United Methodist Church or many others, are out there in the streets of Tuscaloosa making a difference.”

The number of fatalities from resulting from the April 27 tornado remains at 41, Maddox said.

Six people are still unaccounted for, three belonging to one family, and four search teams are continuing their efforts to locate these individuals, Maddox said.

Maddox said 1,100 people have been cleared from the missing persons list as not missing. There were also two arrests for curfew violations last night.

Maddox said he and University of Alabama President Robert Witt have spoken almost daily since April 27.

“The resources the University has put in to this effort have been tremendous,” he said.

The night of the tornado, Maddox said the University of Alabama Police Department was working 14 intersections throughout the city.

“We’ve also collaborated on issues regarding housing and potential space for those who have been hurt by the storm and I know we forwarded that on to FEMA,” he said. “Dr. Witt has been tremendous just in offering his general support. He and the University have been active partners in helping us through this process.”

As of today, the Urban Search and Rescue teams from Mobile and Louisiana have been demobilized, Maddox said. The Tuscaloosa Fire and Rescue will continue its efforts.

Tuscaloosa County Sherriff Ted Sexton said the search and rescue for the Holt community has been completed and the Alabama Task Force 1 from Mobile has recommended beginning general debris removal.

Starting on Sunday, May 8, Maddox said he will amend his executive order on the curfew hours. The indefinite curfew will be from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m.

In Tuscaloosa County, 7,893 people have registered with FEMA and FEMA has already given $12.6 back to those who have qualified for assistance, Maddox said.

The FEMA Disaster Relief Center, located in the Holt Elementary gym, opened today and will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m., Sexton said.

Monday, the United States Secretary for Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan will be visiting affected areas around they city, Maddox said.

When Donovan was in Tuscaloosa three years ago, he visited both Rosedale and McKenzie Court. Maddox said he wants to bring Rosedale to the standards of McKenzie Court now.

Maddox said he also wants to find out how to better utilize HUD and Community Block Grant Development funding and first time homebuyer programs.

At the press conference, Maddox also commended the impressive volunteer efforts.

In his assessment last Thursday, Maddox said the city was staring down a crisis. The majority of the city was without electricity, was facing the possibility of losing pressure in the water distribution system, the countywide emergency management agency was gone, the city’s ability to deal with garbage and debris were gone and there were issues at treatment plants.

On top of that critical situation, Maddox said, the city was dealing with having thousands of people homeless.

“The difference came from our volunteers,” he said. “They immediately began getting supplies in to these areas. We were able to organize around them. They led the effort and we followed and supported them.

“They were the difference in keeping people fed, keeping them hydrated and keeping them clothed during the early hours of this crisis. They are the quiet heroes, the unsung heroes. I am not sure that we would have weathered the initial phase of this disaster if it wasn’t for their Herculean efforts.”

As of yesterday, the city had given away 1,365 MRE’s, 1,497 cases of water, 2,006 bags of ice, 969 cases of tarps and served 12,000 meals, Maddox said.

Sexton said from the beginning, volunteers gave his team valuable, specific information that helped them with their efforts.

“Their impact is tremendous, they’ve served meals to first responders, meals to victims,” Sexton said. “They have comforted them. Groups of chaplains have been constantly around our incident command post.

“They have been the ones that have been able to take someone and let them cry on their shoulders and make sure that they get the help that they need. They literally have taken them by their hand and helped them find whatever their needs are, whether it be food, water, comfort, needs for their home, groceries, you name it, they’ve done it.”