Missouri municipal workers are assisting with recovery efforts in Orlando, Florida after Hurricane Irma.
Thirty-six workers from Missouri started Monday by assisting with a damage assessment, Columbia Assistant Director of City Utilities Ryan Williams says. This will tell them what materials they need to begin repairs.
After assessing damages, the workers will focus on restoring electrical power to emergency centers and residential areas.
“It’s a painstaking process,” says Ewell Lawson, vice president of government affairs, communications and member relations for the Missouri Public Utility Alliance. “Power is one of the very first things you need to restore in order to get other recovery efforts into place.”
The Missouri Public Utility Alliance coordinates Missouri’s assistance in recovery efforts. Lawson says they gathered workers from towns across Missouri including Columbia, Hannibal, Independence, Macon, Nixa and Poplar Bluff.
“We often see adversity in Missouri, whether it’s tornadoes or ice storms so we typically have well-trained line workers in place,” Lawson says.
Lawson says the alliance also helped with recovery efforts during Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Katrina.
Lawson says around once a year they will coordinate recovery efforts to help other states if they have a natural disaster.
Their efforts are part of a mutual aid program which allows cities to help each other out in times of need, according to a press release by the city of Columbia.
“Most of our folks are always willing to reach out and help other people,” Williams says. “It’s a great thing and an honor to be called and go help and serve others.”
Ten workers from the Columbia Water and Light Department went to Orlando to help.
“We’re proud that we have so many that do volunteer and want to help out other communities,” Williams says.
Both Williams and Lawson say there is not a definite time table for when the workers will return.