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Tornado

In: Business and Management

Submitted By rotc
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In the days following the recent tornado, we have received numerous calls and messages offering to help UA and the Tuscaloosa community. We are humbled by your generosity and appreciative of the thoughts and well wishes we have received from so many. The information on this page will connect you with some of the most effective ways to help during this challenging time. Thank you.
Touching Lives Through Service
In the aftermath of the storm of April 27, 2011, The University of Alabama's spirit of kindness shone through in countless ways in our community. Students, faculty and staff took action collectively and independently to come to the aid of neighbors in need and to reach out to a community that is so closely intertwined with our university. • Touching Lives Through Service
The University of Alabama has established the UA Acts of Kindness Fund to support an emergency-assistance program for UA employees and students. Anyone who is interested in contributing to the UA Acts of Kindness Fund may donate online using the link below (you may leave the donation code blank on the form). Your gift is tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. • Donate to the UA Acts of Kindness Fund • How to Apply for Assistance
The UA Acts of Kindness Fund will be used to provide financial assistance to employees and students who qualify under the guidelines of this emergency-assistance program. Emergencies usually are related to loss and damage caused by fire, tornado or other natural disaster or a medical emergency that causes leave without pay. The program may be used to help employees and students pay grocery bills, rent or mortgage payments, electric, gas and medical bills.
Decisions regarding the distribution of funds will be made by a committee of UA employees who are appointed by the President. All employee and student cases will be presented anonymously to the UA Acts of Kindness Fund committee for consideration.

Those who would prefer to contribute by check may do so by mailing a check made out to The University of Alabama, with "Acts of Kindness Fund" in the memo line, to Advancement Services, The University of Alabama, Box 870101, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487.
COMMUNITY RELIEF EFFORTS
If you would like to help with Tuscaloosa's recovery and rebuilding efforts, you may donate or volunteer with the local West Alabama relief agencies listed below, or contact the City of Tuscaloosa for more information on how to help. http://www.ua.edu/tornadorelief/ By Chris Bryant
In 1989, actor Kevin Costner learned that “if you build it, he will come.” In the days following the late April tornado, University of Alabama student Ashley Getwan experienced her own epiphany: “if we tweet it, they will bring it.” Getwan, a UA senior biochemistry major, says while the immediate aftermath of the all-too-real April 27 storm had the eerie sensation of a nightmare, the impact made by the scores of volunteers who came to help triggered some Hollywood-type moments.
“What was really remarkable,” says Getwan, who headed communication efforts for UA’s Greek Relief response to the devastation, “was how quickly people would respond to Twitter. If I tweeted, ‘hey, we need bread for sandwiches,’ within an hour we probably had 200 loaves. It was so quick and so immediate. It was kind of like ‘Field of Dreams’: You build it. They will come. We tweet it. They would bring it.” A tweeted request for baby diapers resulted in four carloads, she says.
Greek Relief – whose genesis sprung from a late night dinner conversation in the Delta Kappa Epsilon house some 48 hours after the twister skirted campus, hammering large sections of the city and causing 47 deaths county-wide – would eventually deliver some 52,000 meals to storm victims, first-responders, including National Guard members, and other volunteers, and raise more than $150,000 in donations.
Volunteers prepare boxed lunches in the Beta Theta Pi dining room. (Zach Riggins)
Getwan, the UA Panhellenic president who is eyeing medical school following her scheduled May 2012 graduation, says she and some of her friends rode out the tornado in the basement of the Chi Omega sorority house, while giving more thought to their looming finals than the potential fall-out from the approaching storm.
“I didn’t think too much of it,” Getwan recalls of her reaction upon first hearing the tornado siren wailing from atop UA’s Gorgas Library. “Growing up in Alabama, tornado sirens are sort of the norm during the spring.”
She soon heard from her dad who was in Birmingham and who tried to convince her that this time could be different.
“I went to the sorority house (Chi Omega),” Getwan recalls. “There were a ton of us in the basement to wait out the storm. We weren’t taking it too seriously. People were studying for finals because it was dead week. Then, the power went out.”
As the tension grew, Getwan says students began receiving texts indicating the storm was headed for campus and then, minutes later, that it was nearing the stadium – directly across the street from where the young women were huddled. About 15 minutes after the storm passed, some of the students ventured out.
“We went outside on our front porch, and it was sort of eerie,” Getwan recalls. “Nobody really knew what happened. We kept getting conflicting messages. Our president’s older sister lived across 15th Street along 19th Avenue.”
The student went to check on her sister – whose house was among those hit -- and then reported back to her sorority sisters.
“That was when we knew it was really bad,” Getwan says.
After volunteering much of that evening at the Student Recreation Center, a temporary shelter for UA students whose off-campus residences were damaged or destroyed, Getwan says she remembers feeling helpless the following day.
Graduate student Jeff Hamilton, a former Pi Kappa Alpha, grills burgers on the DKE front porch during relief efforts. (Jeff Hanson)
By Thursday night, the fraternities were organizing an effort to cook and donate food the following day. That first day began with fits and starts, Getwan recalls.
“It was pretty unorganized. They were in the kitchen, and we were cooking six-pound cans of baked beans and corn, whatever we could find – scrambled eggs, corn dogs -- and we were making tons of sandwiches.” Take-out boxes and brown-bag lunches were distributed.
“I think we probably sent out 2,500 meals,” she says. “The DKE kitchen staff worked all that morning, and then it was really just student-run. James Fowler (2010-11 SGA president) and Patrick Morris (a DKE officer) were directing things. We shut down about 4:30 Friday and started cleaning up, and everything started to get organized.”
After a take-out dinner run and return to the DKE House, Getwan said the planning became more intense among the students.
“That was where the idea for UA Greek Relief was born.”
Someone suggested naming the effort, and seeking out more volunteers and food. Emails started flying, Twitter and Facebook accounts were launched. Thousands of Greek students, and also their parents and alumni, were on the receiving end of those messages requesting help.
The DKE House, the students decided, would serve as the headquarters and the pantry and would accept the donated supplies while the kitchen of the Beta Theta Pi house would be used to prepare the food and assemble the meals, Getwan recalls.
The group nearly doubled their daily meal output, sending out more than 4,000 meals on April 30. Getwan, using her smartphone and laptop, sat in the DKE foyer, tweeting and reading tweets.
Volunteers remove storm debris. (Zach Riggins)
“We were following The Tuscaloosa News and Wesleyan Church and other places that had set up Twitters. We were tweeting what we needed, and we would see the needs from other places.”
Batteries, flashlights, diapers, toiletries and baby formula were among the items they obtained and delivered in large quantities. Others involved in the effort took chainsaws into the devastated areas in an attempt to clear debris, or worked with homeowners to tarp roofs. Greek Relief used cash to purchase gloves and other work supplies.
That evening, while Getwan and others were in a closed-door meeting in the DKE parlor discussing the day’s events, the supplies continued arriving.
“We came out and the entire foyer of the DKE House was covered in supplies,” she recalls. “The outpouring of support was unbelievable. That Sunday we had two truckloads come at night and an RV from Nashville.”
The RV driver told the students they placed a sign in their window, while en route, that read “Tuscaloosa Tornado Relief.”
“They said they would stop at gas stations, and people they didn’t even know would just hand them money.”
A volunteer unloads relief supplies from trailer. (Jeff Hanson)
The amount of donated clothing that poured in was almost overwhelming, and the group began sending items to Greene and Hale counties – areas that also needed assistance but weren’t receiving as much as Tuscaloosa.
Fowler and Meg McCrummen, former chief of staff of the UA Student Government Association, and others began giving TV, radio and newspaper interviews, and Getwan was a live guest on a talk-radio program. More donations rolled in. Morris played a critical role, throughout, Getwan says.
“Patrick’s phone really never stopped ringing,” Getwan says.
“Sitting in the foyer of the DKE house, people were just walking in and saying, here’s forty dollars. We bought Wal-Mart and Lowe’s gift cards that we could give to families. We would refill propane tanks for grills.
“I was on the phone and the computer and the walkie-talkie all at the same time. I was a little frazzled.”
Through the help of John Murdock, president of Greek Resource Services Inc., an organization that manages billing and accounting needs for various UA Greek chapters, an account was set-up whereby the public could make monetary donations to UA Greek Relief by mailing checks to a P.O. Box. An online donation option was also established.
“Every day we were able to increase the number of meals we were sending out,” Getwan says. “Everybody was just happy to help.”
Many non-Greek students, as well as parents and alumni came to help, she says.
“We never expected it to be as huge or as successful as it was for something that was born out of just hanging out one night. The outpouring of support was just unbelievable.” http://www.ua.edu/features/findyourpassion/tweets.html As the University of Alabama community continues to assist with storm recovery in Tuscaloosa, the psychological well-being of students in the aftermath of the storm and disaster preparedness have also become important issues on campus.

Project Rebound UA, a university program that is part of a statewide crisis counseling initiative funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is addressing both in its last months of its $536,000 grant.

The outreach program, staffed with 20 graduate student counselors, began connecting with students in November to determine the need for aid including community services and mental health assistance.

Melanie Tucker, Project Rebound UA director and assistant professor in the Institute for Rural Health Research and the College of Community Health Sciences, said more students have approached them around the one-year anniversary of the April 27 tornado.

"What we're seeing more of now that the anniversary's coming up -- people are coming to us and they're just wanting to talk, to tell their story or share what they're doing right now," Tucker said.

With this week falling during finals, already a period of increased anxiety on campus, some students still are in disbelief while others are just beginning to understand the magnitude of how close they came to the storm, Tucker said.

"It's expected around the anniversary that people are going through some sadness, maybe they lost family members, friends, pets or possessions," Tucker said. "There is some sadness and almost disbelief that it happened, or maybe they can't believe that it was a year ago that this happened."

A recent study led by UA psychology professor Rosanna Guadagno investigating the link between students' social media use and psychological well-being following the tornado has found that female students are returning to normal faster than their male counterparts.

"We're not sure why the men aren't bouncing back yet, and it may have something to do with the fact that women use the Internet more to reach out to people," Guadagno said.

Tucker said that more women have participated in Project Rebound UA's individual sessions and are generally more willing to talk to counselors, which can help in sorting out issues.

The long-term psychological effects of the storm will differ for each impacted student depending on their experience and their coping skills, Tucker said, and severe weather may be a continuing source of anxiety for some.

"I would say their outlook and prognosis is very good, as long as they maintain good coping skills," Tucker said.

View full sizeUA students Zac McMillian of Memphis, Christopher Simpson of Port Charlotte, Florida, Paige Bussanich of Muscle Schoals, Taylor Surprenant of Naples, Florida and Katie DeLost of Gainesville, Virginia volunteer at the UA Community Service Center's Ripple Effect: Freshman Volunteer Day off of Elm Drive in Holt, Ala. on Aug. 23, 2011. (Chris Pow / al.com)
Tucker said students should set a routine, eat healthy, get enough sleep, maintain social contact with family and friends and talk to someone if issues do come up.

In its last months, Project Rebound UA also been asked by faculty to talk to students about tornado preparedness. Students have been encouraged to sign up for UA Alerts, a notification system that can send updates on emergency information to students and university employees via phone, text message and email. Tucker also tells students to identify a safe place and to have access to a weather radio.

"One thing we're trying to impress upon students and even our faculty and staff is that when bad weather comes, don't depend on the sirens," Tucker said. "And I think that's one thing James Spann would be really proud of us for. Go to your alerts, watch the weather, just get connected."

Jason Senkbeil, assistant professor of geography at UA, has been studying tornado preparedness and the decisions made by people in the face of severe weather. He said UA students, as well as people across Alabama, have begun to think more about how they react to severe weather threats.

"I think the change in students' awareness is the same as it's changed for everybody in this state," Senkbeil said. "I think that because of what happened last year, people are paying much closer attention to the wording of the warnings. I think people are trying to understand, 'OK, we have severe weather tomorrow, how does this compare to previous events?'"

Senkbeil, who will present some of his findings at a tornado research symposium at UA today, said several graduate students are doing research on topics related to tornado preparedness and recovery, including work on shelter adequacy and on false alarms and near misses.

Project Rebound UA will end on May 31, but efforts to get out information via the program's social media accounts could continue. Tucker said that with an infrastructure in place, the program could resume quickly in the aftermath of a similar disaster.

Student volunteer efforts in the past year have been impressive considering the impact of the storm on their own lives, Tucker said.

"I'm just amazed at what the students have done, how they've bonded together and started working in the community and helping with recovery," Tucker said. "I think they're just phenomenal."
http://blog.al.com/tuscaloosa/2012/04/ua_students.html

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