TEMA asks state for more funding to expand disaster aid staff

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Posted at 7:04 PM, Nov 09, 2021

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — In order to keep up with the many natural disasters that have hit Tennessee, the commissioner of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency asked for more funding.

There have been nine federally declared disasters in just two years in Tennessee.

TEMA Commissioner Patrick Sheehan said he hopes the department can find ways to minimize a disaster's impact. He made the need clear at budget hearings with the governor.

"We're still busy helping Waverly, and more broadly, Humphreys County and Dickson and Houston County as they continue to recover," said Sheehan. "It's just a lot."

They've been there for all of the disasters, but Sheehan said the department is spread thin.

"We have a mitigation staff of four right now," he said. "It makes it difficult for communities to look ahead. So, we're asking for mitigation positions to help with that."

Few understand the seriousness of what's been happening in Tennessee better than those who were there when it happened.

Such as the people of Waverly.

Amanda Maples lost her home to flooding. Two and a half months later and she's still working on recovery.

"I got asked this week how many hours I spend working on flood stuff and I said 'well, about 20,'" said Maples.

Bogged down by the bureaucracy that comes with federal aid, Maples wonders if things could be done better.

"It just seems like there are devastating substantial events," she said. "We're going to have to get in a proactive role instead of a reactive role moving forward for us to be prepared."

She's not alone. Dwain Land, former mayor of Dunlap, said they know TEMA needs help.

"We know there's going to be lots more flooding coming in the future," said Land.

He just hopes something can be done because flooding is just a part of Tennessee's reality.

"[Floods are] going to come and a lot of our vulnerable communities are just not prepared for the next big flood," he said.

Sheehan asked for funding for staff who will help with collecting and interpreting data. Also, they want a meteorologist to help with early warnings statewide.

While TEMA has responded to all of the disasters, the people there think they can do better preparing and responding.