Learning from the Past: What Albany’s Flood Mitigation Efforts Can Teach Us

When the Flint River flooded 20 years ago this month in Albany, GA, the city’s emergency management officials weren’t ready. According to an article in the Albany Herald, the Flint River literally cut the community in half, changing what it means to be divided. Now dubbed the Flood of 1994, the disaster taught lessons, though hard ones, that Albany has used. The city has found ways to mitigate division from disaster.

The article notes that steps have been taken to ensure that residents all over the community have access to more resources, and that the people in charge of those resources are now much better prepared, should a natural disaster strike again.

Albany Fire Department chief James Carswell told the Albany Herald that the biggest changes that have occurred since 1994 are improvements in technology, improved resources and improved partnerships with different agencies across the state. Carswell was one of two assistant fire chiefs with the department during the 1994 flood.

Carswell says today, emergency planners wouldn’t be caught off guard like they were then. “It literally went from no water at all to rooftops in a matter of four hours. It took us by surprise, took everybody by surprise,” Carswell said, recalling that night in July 20 years ago.

While better technology like smart phones, radios and Global Positioning Systems (GPS) is one of the major improvements in two decades, Carswell also notes Albany has made improvements in increasing resources – like adding more boats to the fire department’s fleet. In 1994, it only had one.

Two of the most important changes since the flood are better, stronger partnerships across state and local levels and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency’s (GEMA) focus on natural disasters, Carswell said in the article.

“We have better partnerships with all the other players in the region,” Carswell said. “Even from the state perspective, this has been a learning experience. All the counties in Georgia, through GEMA, signed a mutual aid agreement, so every county is of mutual aid to every other county in the state on these types (of) situations. So, our resources are shared resources across all the counties. So, that’s kind of the big umbrella everything else falls under.”

Perhaps the biggest takeaway for the rest of us is to understand how vital it is to come together, move past our differences and work as a team when things get bad.

“It’s one of those things I would say of our community; we can be at odds with each other occasionally, but I’ve never seen it when in a time of need it didn’t come together,” Carswell said. “When there’s a need, somebody steps up and takes care of it.”

Carswell concluded in the article, “In my career, almost 42 years, I’ve never seen the community not come together in a time of need. Now, two weeks later they may be fussing about some other stuff, but during that crisis, I’ve never seen them not come together. It was pretty amazing then and it amazes me every time. This community will put all of their differences aside and help each other out in a time of need.”

 

For the original article, click here: http://www.albanyherald.com/news/2014/jun/27/albany-finds-ways-to-mitigate-division-from/