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April 15, 1998: Implementing Effective Disaster Response

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In this time of crisis, your community has pulled together, and so has the national community. That is how the national government ought to work. The reason we have an agency like FEMA is that no one -- no state, no town, no neighborhood -- should have to carry this burden alone. We are all in this together and we are doing everything we can to help.

- President Bill Clinton
April 15, 1998

Today, President Clinton travels to Birmingham, Alabama to view damage caused by recent tornadoes and to meet with state and local officials as well as with victims, volunteers and heros from affected areas. During his visit, President Clinton is briefed on the current situation and the federal, state and local response to the storm's damage. The President also makes several announcements concerning ongoing disaster relief efforts.

On April 8-9, severe weather and tornadoes swept through several communities in central Alabama, seriously damaging Jefferson, St. Clair and Tuscaloosa counties and also affecting DeKalb and Etowah counties. The storms were responsible for 33 confirmed deaths and more than 250 injuries. More than 370 homes, businesses and other structures were destroyed and more than 510 others were damaged.

Providing Effective Disaster Assistance. Today, President Clinton announces several additional disaster relief efforts for the communities affected by last week's storms, including:

  • Public Assistance for affected local governments and certain non-profit organizations to fund debris removal, and the repair, restoration, reconstruction or replacement of public facilities such as schools;
  • Authorization of a Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Program grant to provided training and services to alleviate mental stress and health problems caused by the disaster;
  • A Labor Department grant of up to $3.2 million to the Alabama Department of Economic Affairs to help provide temporary jobs to dislocated workers to assist in clean-up and recovery efforts.
A Coordinated And Effective Response. James Lee Witt, Director of the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), is coordinating the federal response to the disaster. Coordination among federal, state and local authorities has been strong:
  • Since April 9, $12 million in federal funds have been obligated to assist Alabama with recovery efforts;
  • Assistance checks are already flowing to people whose homes were damaged, so they can find alternative housing or make immediate repairs to make their homes liveable again;
  • $10 million dollars have been provided to the State of Alabama in order to begin working with communities to move debris, and repair damages to public buildings and roads;
  • Local governments are conducting debris removal;
  • The National Council of Churches is assisting with the rebuilding of every church building damaged or destroyed in the disaster.
  • Volunteers have played an extraordinary role, along with local search and rescue personnel.
Reaching Out To Affected Communities. On April 10, the Vice President traveled to Alabama and Georgia with Labor Secretary Herman, Small Business Administration Administrator Alvarez, and FEMA Director Witt to tour affected areas and meet with local officials, relief workers and residents. During the last several months, President Clinton has similar visits to other disaster sites across the country, in states from Florida to California.

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