Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Police departments adjust following tornado

After the tornado hit and damaged much of Tuscaloosa and surrounding areas, there was a desperate need for help from local emergency services units. The University of Alabama Police Department and the Tuscaloosa Police Department were two of the main responders to issues deriving from the occurrence.

Today, they are continuing their tornado relief efforts while moving towards regular day-to-day operations.

“UAPD worked side-by-side with city and county law enforcement and emergency management agencies throughout the tornado response,” said Cathy Andreen, University spokesperson, in an emailed statement. “On April 27, UAPD held personnel in anticipation of the storm. When the storm struck, UAPD officers were immediately sent into the devastated areas to aid in the emergency response and off-duty personnel were called in to work.”

Public Information Officer at Tuscaloosa Police Department, Brent Blankley, said, “We’re still in a rebuilding phase; we’re still having to protect property. We have people running details in the storm affected areas, but we switched our assets back to try to get to a normal operation, which moved a lot of people back to our criminal investigation division, patrol division and normal day-to-day functions. But, we still have people located in those storm areas.”

According to Blankley, the initial goal of TPD after the tornado hit was to try and get all injured persons out of houses and to get them to hospitals and other places that were providing medical assistant. After houses were searched, the department’s goals were switched to protecting property.

“There was the looting that was going on, so we switched roles into that and protecting our city,” Blankley said. “We still had normal calls from day-to-day operations that we had to respond to.”

TPD had a command station located at UAPD, which worked specific storm-affected areas along with officers from out of town and assisted TPD in their CID division. Following the storm, UAPD implemented 12-hour, seven-day-a-week work shifts.

“UAPD remained in emergency scheduling and continued to assign the majority of its staff to directly support the recovery efforts through May 15,” Andreen said. “This includes assigning personnel to field response efforts, the missing persons task force, and to incident command.”

TPD officers began working 12- to 16-hour shifts daily while transforming into one unit and dividing up into the three badly affected areas. By the end of the second week following the storm, the department began moving back towards eight-hour shifts.

“One thing we learned is how much everyone is willing to pitch in,” Blankley said. “I was amazed. There were just tons of officers here from different jurisdictions, states, troopers. That was one of the overwhelming things. In a time of crisis, it’s amazing to see how the community pulls together.  We had people in the community donating food [for the officers] and bringing supplies in to us. You knew we could depend on the community and the community could depend on us.”

TPD continues to patrol and run details in areas in and around Tuscaloosa. Blankley said TPD has learned from the experience and gathered knowledge that can be useful to local departments and those abroad.

“One of the big things that we do have now, is we’ve got a plan, so if anything like this happens in the future we can say ‘this is what we did last time,’” he said. “We’ll go back and look at stuff that could have been improved and fix that.”

Andreen said UAPD is continuing to provide patrol support in Cedar Crest and Forest Lake areas.


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