LITTLE ROCK – From a distance, we have all watched the devastation and flooding caused by Hurricane Florence. While the destruction was far away, I am proud of the way Arkansas has helped the recovery effort. Let me share a few examples of what we have done to help.
The Arkansas Department of Emergency Management has sent four people east – three to Richmond, Virginia, and one to Atlanta.
Arkansas Air National Guard is contributing 18 airmen from the 188th Wing in Fort Smith. And one soldier from the 39th Infantry Brigade has been deployed to the National Guard Bureau at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.
The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas have sent 118 linemen to assist in restoring power, and Entergy sent 100.
The Arkansas cooperatives have also sent approximately 100 pieces of equipment including bucket trucks, digger derricks, pickups, and pole trailers.
Tyson Foods plans to send 100,000 pounds of food and water, and several employees from Arkansas have volunteered to help prepare meals.
Sixteen members of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention’s Flood Recovery and Chainsaw teams are leaving for Bayboro, North Carolina, on Monday.
ADEM was able to deploy its four employees because of the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, a mutual aid agreement that allows states to send personnel, equipment, water, food and other items that other states need during a disaster.
Once a governor declares an emergency, he or she can request assistance through EMAC. The compact eliminates issues of liability and cost, and it allows a state to honor credentials, licenses, and certifications from other states.
Jordan Abshire of Cabot is operations branch manager at ADEM and has been in Atlanta for the past week serving as our liaison. She has been monitoring requests for assistance, answering questions about EMAC deployments, submitting daily reports and participating in daily teleconferences.
Of those deployed from the 188th Wing, 15 are working for FEMA from their home site in Fort Smith. They collect video feeds and photographs from satellites, Google Earth and social media to assist the people in the disaster zone to know more precisely the conditions in the area.
They can alert rescuers to flooded roads and the possibility that floodwaters may top a dam. To put it in a technical term, they provide situational awareness.
Disasters tend to bring out the best in people, as we have seen in Arkansas when neighbors turn out to help neighbors. I’m grateful for the Arkansans who are willing to leave their families to help others.
As the folks at ADEM say, disasters don’t respect state borders. And with government pacts such as EMAC in place, and private companies and faith-based organizations, we don’t have to worry about state borders, either, when our neighbors need help.