MONEY FROM FEMA: The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has gotten decent notices so far regarding its handling of storm recovery efforts. According to news releases from the agency, FEMA teams are out in affected areas. Survivors can apply for federal assistance by calling (800) 621-3362 from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. They can also register online at www.disasterassistance. gov. They can register through Web-enabled mobile phone devices at m.fema.gov. As of May 2, FEMA had designated 32 counties in Alabama for disaster assistance for individuals, families and businesses as part of the state’s federal disaster declaration. Those counties include Bibb, Blount, Cullman, Jefferson, St. Clair, Tuscaloosa and Walker. Individual assistance for homeowners and renters can include grants to help pay for rental housing, home repairs and other serious disaster-related expenses not met by insurance or other assistance programs, according to the agency. Low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration are also available to cover residential and business losses not fully compensated by insurance. The hearing or speech impaired can use a TTY line to reach FEMA at (800) 462-7585. For more information, visit www.disasterassistance.gov.
HOUSING FROM FEMA AND RED CROSS: The Federal Emergency Management Agency says people who need a place to stay after the deadly tornadoes in Alabama now have 20 shelters available, according to an Associated Press report May 2. The shelters are supported by the American Red Cross. Locations include Boutwell Auditorium, the Cullman Civic Center, Hanceville Recreation and Wellness Center, Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church in Bessemer, First Baptist Church in Dora, Belk Center Parks and Recreation Building in Tuscaloosa, the Tuscaloosa Veterans Administration Hospital, Northside Baptist Church and Hunters Chapel in Jasper and the Haleyville Fire Department. According to Michael Byrne, Federal Coordinating Officer for the recovery operation in Alabama, speaking to The Decatur Daily, no one should go without a decent place to sleep. “Do not sleep in your car,” Byrne says. “Go to a shelter. If you need somewhere to lay your head, go to a shelter.”
LONG-TERM HOUSING FOR STORM VICTIMS: According to Birmingham Mayor William Bell, vacant private properties in the Birmingham area, including the former Carraway Methodist Medical Center in Norwood, the former Daniel Payne College complex in western Birmingham and vacant apartment buildings, could possibly provide long-term housing for people who have lost their homes in the tornado and have no place to stay. According to Joseph D. Bryant of The Birmingham News, Bell said the city is forming a committee to look at these options.
RECOVER ON FACEBOOK: The Alabama Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have announced the launch of a joint Facebook page to provide information on recovery efforts in the aftermath of the state’s devastating tornadoes, including assistance tips, advice on the registration process and voluntary agencies. The link is www.facebook. com/AlabamaEMA. Everyone from government officials to recovery specialists to the general public is invited to share information on helping those who have been affected by the storms. Those using Twitter can receive updates by following twitter. com/AlabamaEMA and twitter.com/femaregion4. For anyone who is not on Twitter, but would like to receive updates through text messages, text follow AlabamaEMA and follow femaregion4 to 40404.
BEWARE OF SCAMMERS: There are scam artists trying to take advantage of Alabama tornado victims, according to a report by Stan Diel of The Birmingham News. While most contractors are legitimate, Deil reports, disasters attract so-called “storm chasers” who take advantage of home owners and engage in such practices as questionable roof repairs. David Colmans, director of the Alabama Insurance Information Service trade group, tells Diel that insurance companies now are getting reports of scams and questionable business practices in the wake of last week’s horrible storms. Diel provides a list of tips onhow to avoid a scam. For example, ask to see the credentials of anyone who claims to represent your insurance company and be suspicious of contractors who approach you without being solicited. To see Diel’s complete list, look for “Scam artists trying to take advantage of Alabama tornado victims” at al.com. The article was posted May 2.
SAVING THE TREES: The Arbor Day Foundation is providing information for residents of storm-damaged areas who wish to try to save as many of the trees in their neighborhoods as possible. According to a release from the Foundation, the loss of trees may add to the sense of devastation experienced by storm survivors. According to Foundation chief executive John Rosenow, “Because trees are such a large part of a city’s visual landscape, damage to them from a severe storm can be a major shock to residents.” But Rosenow also said that trees are amazingly resilient and that many recover with proper care. Information is available from the Foundation for residents who want to become more informed about tree care and storm recovery. The Foundation’s web site offers a free storm recovery kit, a set of easy-to-understand guidelines to explain how to care for trees following a severe storm. Residents will learn to know whether a tree can be saved, the best way to remove broken limbs and how to identify scam artists posing as arborists. To obtain the kit, go to www.arborday.org/media/ stormrecovery. The Arbor Day Foundation is a nonprofit conservation organization with a mission to inspire people to plant and nurture. Learn more at www.arborday.org.
MCWANE EXHIBIT: The McWane Science Center has opened a new exhibit that focuses on the tornadoes that ripped through Alabama and other Southeastern states last Wednesday, according to the Center’s web site. The exhibit will include recent news coverage about the tornadoes, a list of ways people can help those who are in need and a writing booth for kids to share stories about their experiences on and since April 27. Volunteers from Desert Island Supply Co. (DISCO), a nonprofit creative writing program based in Woodlawn, will staff the writing booth on Sundays throughout the month of May from 1-5 p.m. In the coming weeks, a section explaining the science behind a super cell and a display of objects found in people’s yards will be added. Visitors to the center can also learn more about tornadoes from Tornado Alley, a film currently showing at the center’s Imax theater. McWane is offering free admission to anyone who brings in one of the following items: toothbrushes, baby wipes, hand sanitizer, shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, soap and toilet paper. Free admission must be redeemed on the date that the donations are dropped off. More details can be found on the McWane Facebook page or at www.mcwane.org.
CHARLIE DROPS IN: Actor Charlie Sheen announced that he was coming to Alabama to inspect our storm damage with the following Tweet on May 1: “Alabama; Heading your way. On a recon mission. My Cadre right behind me. You need help. I’m bringing it. DogSpeed. c.” Sheen made his appearance in Tuscaloosa that same day, visiting Holt and Alberta City, sites of some of the worst damage in the city. “I wanted to see it for myself,” Sheen told reporters Monday after touring the devastation, according to Ed O’Keefe at www. washingtonpost.com. After a show Sunday night in Denver—part of his ongoing “Torpedoes of Truth” one-man tour—Sheen said he decided to fly to Alabama at the urging of fans who contacted him via Twitter. “I’m here to bring the focus of the world down,” he said. “I’m on a bit of a recon mission and then we’re going to plan a fundraiser and come back in full force.”
According to O’Keefe, Sheen—wearing a University of Alabama cap— told reporters that the fundraiser may involve a charitable baseball game or “multimedia show” involving musicians and comedians at the nearby University of Alabama. “We’re just going to ask them to drop everything and get down here,” Sheen said. According to Don Kausler Jr. with The Birmingham News, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox welcomed the star’s visit. “Anytime we can get national attention about the plight of Tuscaloosa, I think it’s a positive thing,” Maddox said. According to Kausler, Sheen said he was doing a show in Denver when he received a tweet from David Harris, a 23-year-old University of Alabama senior from Mobile, who appealed to the actor to do a show for relief. Sheen has a Twitter account with more than 3.75 million followers.