“We’re going to be there until you completely rebuild”: The President in Oklahoma, 5/26/13

“At my direction, [FEMA Administrator] Craig Fugate arrived here on Tuesday. FEMA was on the ground even before Monday’s tornado hit. And their teams have now completed searches of more than 1,200 buildings. We’ve helped to register more than 4,200 people for disaster assistance, and we’ve approved more than $3.4 million in direct aid. Obviously, there’s a lot more to come. But it’s not just a government response. We’ve seen incredible outpourings of support from churches, from community groups who are helping folks begin to recover….

This is a strong community with strong character. There’s no doubt they’re going to bounce back. But they need help — just like any of us would need help if we saw the kind of devastation that we’re seeing here. We have about 1,200 homes that have been completely destroyed, but we’ve got 12,000 that have been damaged in one way or another, and that’s a big piece of business. And along with the schools, we’ve got a hospital that has been destroyed. It’s going to take a long time for this community to rebuild.

So I want to urge every American to step up. If I’ve got one message for folks here today: Go online, donate to the American Red Cross. And if you’re from the area and you need to register for disaster assistance, you can call 1-800-621-FEMA. That’s 1-800-621-FEMA. Or you can go to disasterassistance.gov. Disasterassistance.gov on the web. Either way, I guarantee you, if you’ve got some significant damage and have been impacted, go ahead and reach out, and there are going to be professionals there who are ready and willing to provide you the assistance that you need….

And when we say that we’ve got your back, I promise you, we keep our word. If you talk to folks in Alabama who have been affected over the last couple of years; you talk to the folks at Joplin, who I know have actually sent volunteers down here to Moore; if you talk to folks in New Jersey and New York, they’ll tell you that when we say we’re going to be there until you completely rebuild, we mean it. And I want everybody to have that confidence.

So, again, to all the people here behind me, I want to say how proud I am of them, how grateful I am for their service. I want to make one final comment. A lot of the first responders talked about the training they’ve done, in part through some federal grants, to prepare for disasters like this. And, as a consequence, when it actually happens, they know what to do, they’re not losing time, they’re able to go through all the drills and the training that they’ve gone through.

Training, education, both for citizenry but also for first responders, is absolutely critical. And we’ve got to make sure that those resources remain in place. So I know everybody in Congress cares deeply about what’s happening, and I’m confident that resources will be forthcoming when it comes to rebuilding. But remember that it’s also the ongoing training and equipment that we’re making sure that those things are in place. We can’t shortchange that kind of ongoing disaster response. We can’t just wait until the disaster happens. That’s how, in part, we were able to save a lot of lives — and I want everybody to keep that in mind.”

Full text: 1.usa.gov/11pfeS6

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