March 28, 2023

CSU staff aids tornado relief efforts in Alabama

tornado damage in alabamaThe recent tornado outbreak in the South took many lives and left a tremendous amount of property devastation.

Immediately following the April 27 storms, CSU staffers mobilized to reach out to lend a hand to the victims of the tornadoes.

Vicki Barnes, CSU director of compensation and employee benefits, led efforts for food donations and distribution to tornado victims in Cullman, Ala. With the help of various CSU departments and the local Orange Beach-Foley, Ala., community, a large amount of food and other items were packed in a trailer and driven to Cullman, which CSU has adopted for its relief efforts.

Also, reaching out to help were Billy D. Hayes, vice president of Marketing and Outreach, Ron Dennis, Special Programs manager and Wayne Hanes, Military/Corporate program trainer. The CSU trio journeyed to Tuscaloosa to lend their many years of experience in emergency service to provide relief for the workers in the area.

On May 5 and 6, Hayes was asked to assume the role of incident commander for Camp Crimson at the Alabama Fire College, a state training facility for Alabama firefighters. Dennis served as planning chief and Hanes was the logistics chief. Camp Crimson housed the Alabama Task Force 1 (Mobile Fire Rescue) and Louisiana Task Force, as well as a transitional health care facility for those being released from hospitals. The trio helped with demobilization and arrival preparations of crews.

After returning from a helicopter flight assessing the devastation, Hayes said “I must say, I was on the Hurricane Katrina response and the devastation in Tuscaloosa rivals it. Houses are completely gone, vehicles wrapped around trees, houses blown down hillsides, trees gone for miles, and people’s lives ruined and lost.”

The trip was sort of deja vu for Hayes as he and other members of CSU, as well as Orange Beach Fire Chief Forney Howard, had traveled to Tuscaloosa, Ala., on April 15 to visit the Alabama Fire College campus.

The group went to participate in meetings for the final details of a regional training partnership and the online Fire Officer I program. Hayes also served as the keynote speaker at the recruit class graduation that day.

As soon as the ceremonies ended, AFC director Allan Rice ordered all attendees into the hallway because severe weather was fast approaching.

“In the distance, you could hear the weather sirens sounding with the indication of a pending tornado,” Hayes said. “Within minutes, the pressure inside the building changed, the ceiling tiles raised up in the framework, and the roar of the wind was audible as everyone huddled in the hallway.”

Afterward, moderate damage was sighted in the forestry surrounding AFC, which is located on the campus of Shelton State Community College, as well as the facilities and training props. Hayes said that it was later determined that the tornado that passed over them was an EF3.

CSU is continuing to support victims relief efforts in Cullman and offers condolences to all who suffered losses as a result of the deadly storms.


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