A disaster relief relationship between the NAACP and the American Red Cross was tested last month when tornadoes devastated Alabama, hitting poor communities harder than any other group.

As a result of a disaster response initiative begun after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, small, unincorporated and poor communities that were strafed by a historic spasm of tornadoes received prompt attention,.

When tornadoes in 1998 hit Pratt City, Ala., hard, the tiny, mostly Black town suffered “because the resources simply weren’t there,” NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Jealous told the AFRO May 7.

An estimated 300 people were killed in the powerful tornadoes.

“This time disaster aid was much better, more equitable and much more focused,” he said. The big change this time was that a segment of the 1,200 NAACP volunteers trained by the Red Cross were able to tell rescuers where to target aid.

The volunteers, who include members of the National Baptist Convention and some Black fraternal organizations, are equipped with walkie-talkies and satellite phones, when they were available, to help direct first responders and are prepared to perform damage assessment and basic first aid.

This time, instead of frustration there is cooperation and diversity, Jealous said. This time, he said, “the other side of town is not forgotten.”

By training local residents in disaster aid, the little towns and enclaves often missed — “because they aren’t on the maps”—are better served, Jealous said.