State EMA director: 2011 storms prompted more safe rooms across state

Published 2:07 am Friday, March 28, 2014

Members of the Opp Chamber of Commerce used their quarterly meeting Thursday to do exactly what emergency experts suggest – plan ahead.


Art Faulkner, director of the state of Alabama Emergency Management Agency served as the night’s guest speaker, and told chamber members taking steps towards emergency preparedness is most useful when there is no emergency happening.

“The evidence that you are doing something good is that you have this crowd here tonight,” Fualkner said. “We’ve got to get a plan. Being ready, in some cases, is just knowing where you are going to go when (an emergency) hits.”

During his speech, Faulkner praised Gov. Robert Bentley for his response to the deadly tornadoes that ravaged the northern two-thirds of Alabama in 2011, adding his actions have led to a safer situation in all Alabama counties.

“That really defined Gov. Bentley for me,” he said. “It’s times like that when we look to our leaders and you see just how they are going to lead. The actions that were taken immediately after the tornadoes has allowed all Alabama counties to benefit from federal dollars.”

Faulkner said programs and resources that have been put into place in Alabama as a direct result of the 2011 tornadoes will also benefit state residents.

“We now have 37 to 40 thousand citizens with access to safe rooms around the state,” Faulkner said. “All as a result of this emergency. And FEMA types emergencies, with type I being the most devastating. There have only been three: September 11, 2001; Hurricane Katrina; and this group of storms.”

While Faulkner said Alabama as a whole is certainly in better shape for handling emergencies as compared to the past, he stressed the need for local preparedness.

“One of the most critical part of our jobs is to be there for our citizens after a major disaster,” Faulkner said. “But when it happens, it doesn’t matter what the government does; It matters what you do. If you can get the power back on, for instance, and you get the local gas station and the local grocery store open, life is going to go back to normal for a lot of people, and it gets you tax base going again.”

Faulkner also praised Covington County EMA Director Susan Harris for her work on the local level.

“You know, in some areas of the state, when people call and say they need this or that, we have to send someone to make sure,” he said. “That’s not the case with Susan. If she calls, we know she has exhausted every other resource.”

While Fualkner said there is no magic solution to unpredictable emergencies, having any kind of plan can be the difference between life and death.

“Be ready,” he said. “Get a kit. I encourage citizens who have questions to call Susan, or visit