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Response to challenges commendable

Response to challenges commendable

Posted: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 8:02 pm
By: Gov. Phil Bredesen

Dear fellow Tennessean:
This has been an extraordinary month for Tennessee — tragic and challenging — but the devastating storms and flooding that began April 30 have reminded me how great this state truly is. As I toured flood-ravaged areas, I saw again how strong and resilient Tennesseans are, and how the communities of our state always pull together to help one another in times of need.
In those first few days following the storms and flooding, the devastation in middle and west Tennessee was hard to comprehend. Houses, cars and businesses were submerged; roads and bridges were destroyed. Yet, it seemed every hour brought another story about the courage of first responders across our state. I want to thank local and state agencies that responded so quickly to evacuate, perform water rescues and assess any immediate damage and danger to the roadways. These individuals – firefighters, police, EMS personnel and others — address the most immediate needs of citizens in times of crisis but are often the unsung heroes. In some areas, they’re part of a professional operation, while in others, they’re community volunteers.
Regardless, the result could have been vastly worse without the service of these men and women.
I must also recognize the hard work of the local governments to move quickly and efficiently to support and direct first responders. Having been mayor of Nashville when tornadoes struck the city in 1998 I understand and appreciate the immediate assistance they provide and the way in which they’ve positioned themselves to act as a key link for state and federal governments moving forward.
Additionally, there were the selfless acts of so many Tennesseans who offered to help friends and neighbors in need, working tirelessly to clean houses, cook meals and collect donations. This was evident when I met with leaders from the American Red Cross, who said that when they came to Tennessee, there were fewer immediate needs to address because neighbors, faith-based organizations and volunteers had stepped up in a way many communities haven’t experienced when faced with similar circumstances. .
Now that the immediate response has passed and the waters have receded, damages are being assessed and the state stands ready to do everything it can to help those in need.
In addition to the state and local resources utilized in the initial response, I know counties impacted by the storms are anxious for assistance and access to the resources of the federal government. President Obama and the federal government have moved quickly and, to date, have authorized 46 counties for individual or public assistance or both. More than 52,000 people have registered for individual assistance and $113 million in federal assistance has been approved.
I encourage residents and business owners who sustained losses in the designated counties to begin applying for assistance immediately by registering online at www.fema.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).
Following registration, Tennesseans can also visit one of the 32 Disaster Recovery Centers throughout middle and west Tennessee. The centers, which are operated by the state and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week. Staff at the recovery center can check an individual’s case, answer questions about claims, or review information needed to process a claim. Recovery specialists can supply contacts for other programs that may be able to help.
U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) representatives will also be at the Disaster Recovery Centers to answer any questions about the SBA low-interest disaster loan program. These loans are to repair or replace real estate and/or personal property damaged by the storms and flooding. For more information, visit the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency’s website at www.tnema.org/.
As we move forward through the recovery efforts, it’s important to caution Tennesseans against the various frauds that can occur after any disaster including price-gouging, contactor scams, FEMA fraud and identity theft. Flood victims should be on their guard against fraud artists who pose as home contractors or FEMA representatives in attempt to take money or personal information from unsuspecting homeowners. Don’t be pressured into making a snap decision or sign any blank contracts. As the consumer, you are always in the driver’s seat.
If you have any questions, contact FEMA or the Department of Commerce and Insurance.
Before you pay anyone, first verify that the contractor has the appropriate license from the state. Visit http://verify.tn.gov/ or http://licsrch.state.tn.us/.
This has been a very difficult time for many Tennesseans across the state, but I have witnessed a resiliency and determination that I know will get our state back on track.  As governor, I’ve been extremely proud of the way Tennesseans have responded to this disaster. Moving forward, the combined efforts of local, state and federal governments, and people helping people will be key to our recovery.
On behalf of the state of Tennessee, I want to say thank you to all those who donated money, food and time to help those who were affected. You are truly a testament to the volunteer spirit of our state.
If you have questions or comments about this issue or any other, please email me at phil.bredesen@state.tn.us.
Published in The Messenger 5.25.10

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