State looks to help evacuees get home

Published 9:45 pm Wednesday, September 3, 2008

More than 8,100 evacuees took shelter throughout the State of Alabama, according to the state Emergency Management Agency.

Now, state and federal officials are identifying the transportation schedule for Louisiana evacuees’ eventual return home.

“Safety is our first priority,” said FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer for Alabama Mike Moore. “We know residents brought here by bus are anxious to return to their homes. As soon as parish officials in Louisiana determine it is safe, return transportation will be provided by the State of Alabama.”

Alabama is working closely with the State of Louisiana to arrange bus transportation for evacuees back to their home state. FEMA is supporting the state’s sheltering and repatriation efforts by sending 18 Community Relations Teams into shelters today to gather address and hometown information from evacuees. Information gathered by these Community Relations teams will help the state determine where buses will transport evacuees once local officials are ready to start receiving individuals returning from out of state.

“Local emergency management directors and volunteers in Alabama are working hard to keep the evacuees comfortable and informed,” said AEMA Director Brock Long.

Gov. Bob Riley called up 130 Alabama Army National Guard for security at seven locations housing evacuees from Hurricane Gustav. The soldiers were called up to relieve local, county and state law enforcement officers who have been providing security at each location. This will allow these civilian law enforcement officers to concentrate on their regular duties.

Alabama Army Guard MPs have been sent to Bevill State Community College campuses at Sumiton, Hamilton and Fayette. Other evacuee locations include Northwest-Shoals Community College at Muscle Shoals and Phil Campbell, Wallace State Community College in Hanceville and Calhoun Community College in Decatur.

The 231st Military Police Battalion from Prattville will have a command cell located in Decatur. Personnel from MP units in Alexander City, Opelika and Prattville will be at the other locations.

Members of the Alabama State Defense Force are assisting with the delivery of meals and water to evacuees at six locations in the Birmingham area.

The SDF is a voluntary unit supporting the State of Alabama and reports to the Adjutant General of the Alabama Army National Guard. The SDF personnel are delivering meals to Jefferson State Community College, First Baptist Church of Irondale, Fair Park Arena, Gardendale Civic Center, Bartow Arena and Lawson State Community College campuses in Birmingham and Bessemer.