As I sat down to begin writing this column, millions of people along the eastern seaboard were without power as a result of Hurricane Sandy. Pictures and reports of the widespread devastation were just beginning to filter their way through the national media, and the size of the recovery effort has now become apparent.
A natural first reaction when seeing this kind of devastation is one of disbelief. It’s hard to comprehend the enormity of the job that lay ahead for those involved in the cleanup. It will be days before line crews get power restored, weeks before transportation is running adequately again, months until the debris is all removed, and probably years before life returns to normal in that part of the country.
One thing is certain when it comes to these types of disasters – the cost of rebuilding critical infrastructure is almost always too great for the local entities to withstand without the involvement of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). FEMA assists in returning destroyed areas to pre-disaster condition. Without this federal assistance, 100% of the cost of the recovery would be funded by local taxpayers, businesses, and utility ratepayers.
FEMA has been involved in assisting local not-for-profits like Nodak for decades. When we have had major storm damage, FEMA has assisted in the cost of reconstruction, thereby lessening the burden on our members. Like a lot of federal programs, improvements need to be made in the delivery of FEMA’s mission during and after presidentially-declared disasters. In fact, I would argue that in many respects, FEMA needs to be retooled and overhauled. However, FEMA’s public assistance program delivers much needed assistance to electric cooperative consumers restoring electric services and it needs continued funding and support from our federal government. Without it, those of us living in disaster-prone areas would face additional burdens of longer waits for service restoration and most certainly higher rates. As the election passes and a new congress takes over, encourage your elected leaders to pass a federal budget that continues strong support for this important mission. Without it, recovery from these natural disasters would be almost impossible.
Our hats are off to the many volunteers giving their time to rebuild the devastated areas of our country. A special thank you and congratulations goes out to the many brave men and women that braved the storm, floods, fires, etc. to protect our fellow citizens and help restore their lives to normal. Much of this work is done in horrible conditions and without any fanfare, but their efforts are greatly appreciated.