When Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in late August, the damage was extensive. Very few structures were spared.
The work to rebuild and renew the Gulf Coast will be a continuing effort for federal, state, and local agencies. The Public Assistance (PA) program of U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides funding to state and local governments in the form of grants.
Coordinated through state agencies, PA also works with certain private non-profit organizations in affected areas. A number of these non-profit organizations are cultural preservation groups that save and maintain historic homes, important monuments, and irreplaceable relics.
In Alabama, Baldwin and Mobile counties were among the hardest hit areas in the state. Mobile County is home to a large number of properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places. State Historic Preservation Officer Elizabeth Ann Brown says that about fifty structures were damaged in Mobile. A number of historic homes were also damaged by flooding along Baldwin County’s Eastern Shore.
Currently, PA is assessing the damage to properties owned and managed by local, state, and federal governments. While FEMA is not involved in surveying damages to private historic properties, assessment to sites such as Fort Morgan and the USS Alabama battleship, both National Historic Landmarks, are ongoing.
In 1995, FEMA and the non-profit, Heritage Preservation, joined forces to create The Heritage Emergency National Task Force. The Task Force was formed to help libraries and archives, museums, historical societies, and historic sites better protect their collections and buildings from natural disasters and other emergencies. The Task Force promotes preparedness and mitigation and provides expert information on response and salvage to institutions and the public. To date, 40 agencies from around the country are part of the Task Force.
The Task Force currently offers the Emergency Response and Salvage Wheel, a hands-on tool that explains how to save collections before a disaster strikes. This informational guide outlines critical stages of disaster response, and provides practical tips for collections. Cultural preservation groups interested in obtaining this wheel may call Heritage Preservation at 888-388-6789.
While the deadline for Public Assistance for damages related to Katrina has passed for the state of Alabama, groups needing more information may call the Alabama Emergency Management Agency at 205-280-2200 or go online at http://www.alabamapa.org.
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