Sunday, May 1, 2011

How many people are really missing in Alabama?

This post is not meant to begrudge or question the judgment of Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox, who has been an outstanding voice of reason and calm in the face of incredible human suffering and loss. Nor is it meant to question the capabilities of the Alabama Emergency Management Agency, which has one of the best command and response structures in the country.

But there is an apparent disconnect between what the City of Tuscaloosa and Alabama EMA are telling the public about the number of people missing or unaccounted for following the devastating tornadoes of April 27.

From The Crimson and White:

The city has confirmed 39 deaths, 455 missing people and more than 1,000 injuries, said Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox in a press conference Sunday afternoon.

The names of the 39 confirmed deaths in the city and county were released during the press conference.

The city has removed 123 names from the list of missing people because they have been located or identified as a duplicate of a person already listed.

But from the Alabama EMA’s latest Situation Report (SitRep #10):



I am not accusing either the City of Tuscaloosa or the State of Alabama of lying or intentionally suppressing information. My guess is that there is simply a disconnect in either how the two entities define “missing persons” or in how they communicate important information to the public.

This kind of disconnect is not supposed to happen under a well operated Incident Command System (ICS). Under ICS protocol, consistent information based on the best available information should be provided.

Having one entity report only eight missing—not even including Tuscaloosa County among those reporting missing persons—and having the other state in numerous public statements that the number of missing is in the hundreds is something that needs to be addressed.

Someone needs to ask the EMA Public Information Officer and the Mayor’s office why these two numbers are so vastly different, and what will be done to reconcile the information they provide to the public.

This is not a small matter, either.

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Whosoever said...

I'm a little upset with the reporting myself, and begining to question the reports, My family and I worked in Pratt City (a direct hit after tuscaloosa in Jefferson county) and the local pastor and people of that community informed me that 41 people are "unaccounted for" just in that community. The whole city was flattened. Further more, I spoke with the red cross today, about some of the needs in Pratt city and was told by the volunteer that when he informed his supervisor about pratt city, the supervisor told him there was no city by that name! I'm beggining to believe that its going to be up to all of us to rebuild our state, my faith in helping organizations is wearing thin.

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