University provides aid in disaster relief

William Evans

The University will look to the city for leadership concerning the future of volunteering in disaster areas, said Wahnee Sherman, director of the University’s Community Service Center, in an emailed statement.

“Right now, the CSC is not really creating projects for students to be engaged,” she said. “We are sharing information about needs that are out there and encouraging students to help with those needs.”

Rather than launching volunteering initiatives, the CSC has been guiding student volunteers to relief agencies serving disaster victims, she said.

“Everyone in our office has been involved in coordination of those volunteer efforts including working directly with the city of Tuscaloosa, the Red Cross, and other community agencies to fill needs that they have,” she said. “We worked last week to get student volunteers to staff the city’s volunteer hotline call center for the week.”

Since the city has designated the McAbee Center on Loop Road as the site for volunteer registration, the CSC is urging student volunteers to become credentialed at McAbee.

“Right now, the city is not requiring everyone to be credentialed, but that may change at some point,” she said. “We want students to be ready for that.

“Our efforts have certainly been coordinated with the city and county officials throughout this process. Once students are credentialed, they can work with any number of organizations who are doing relief work.”

The CSC is hoping to organize volunteers directly to help a relief agency such as Tuscaloosa’s One Place.

“In the weeks to come, the CSC will have more coordinated efforts where students can come together to engage in some kind of project as a group like perhaps working at an after school program with Tuscaloosa’s One Place or going together to help sort donated items at Tuscaloosa’s One Place,” she said.

The CSC will wait for the city’s approval before taking action, she said.

Apart from the CSC’s actions, the University has contributed to the relief effort by committing resources to disaster zones and accommodating emergency crews and storm-displaced students, faculty and staff with supplies such as housing and food, said Cathy Andreen, director of media relations, in an emailed statement.

The University receives updates about the evolving needs of the community through its Emergency Operations Center, she said.

“The University targets where resources need to be concentrated by working with our local, state and federal partners within an established emergency response framework,” she said. “Requests for University resources or support are routed to the University’s EOC through established emergency management channels.  The UA EOC then works to coordinate and provide the requested support.”

On the day of the storm, the University of Alabama Police Department waited to be instructed on a course of action. Once the tornado inflicted its damage, UAPD responded immediately to assist the Tuscaloosa Police Department in providing law enforcement and stabilizing the affected areas.

“UAPD instituted emergency scheduling (canceled off days/implemented 12 hour shifts) and has continued to assign the majority of its staff to directly support the recovery efforts,” she said. “This includes assigning personnel to field response efforts, the missing persons task force, and to incident command.”

The University also housed the City’s Emergency Management Agency in its Emergency Operations Center because the City’s EMA building was damaged by the tornado.

Continued University-sponsored relief will adapt to the evolving needs of the community as understood by the city, Sherman said.

“The needs are changing daily as the city moves from relief to recovery to rebuilding,” she said.

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