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with Pack 88 in Northport, Ala. “I didn’t hear any complaints.” In the days that followed, Scouts and

Scouters directed traffic at Tuscaloosa’s volunteer center and helped relatives and strangers gather and secure belong- ings. Leaders say the emergency training they received in Scouting was invaluable, but they couldn’t anticipate everything. “There was a feeling of guilt,” says Annette Smallwood, a Pack 88 leader. “I could go home at night, but you see these people who have nothing, and they’re just thankful to be alive.” As some saw it, this was the moment

they had been preparing for their entire Scouting careers. “The purpose of the Scouting program is to help other people at all times,” says Chris Sentell, an adult leader with Troop 100 of Northport. The morning after, he and several other adult Eagle Scouts headed to neighborhoods damaged by the storm. They encountered victims still in shock and strangers preying on them, demanding thousands of dollars to clear downed trees. Sentell’s group ran them off and began removing trees at no charge. “We’re not just Scouts on Monday nights. We’re Scouts 24/7,” he explains. Scouters elsewhere felt the same. One

retired Eagle from Arizona loaded up his truck with supplies and drove more than 1,500 miles to Tuscaloosa to drop them off. Another adult leader from Ohio flew in supplies on a private plane. The response was similar all across

the state. About 65 miles northeast, in Birmingham, Scoutmaster Russell Byrne of Troop 320 felt the need to do some- thing. He sent out a message, calling on Scouts and Scouters to fill the troop trailer with donated goods. Within 24 hours, “Fill the Trailers” had become a Vulcan District undertaking. Throughout that first weekend, dozens of leaders and boys

from several troops collected a massive amount of goods—batteries, diapers, toiletries, bottled water—to help those across town who now had nothing. As in Tuscaloosa, the units relied on

e-mail, text messages, Facebook postings, and Twitter to get the word out. “What began as a simple idea to collect a few basic items grew to a community-wide expression of generosity,” says Hayes Brown, Troop 320 committee chairman. Sixty miles farther north, another Alabama group sprang into action. After twisters churned through their

area, Troop 31 of Cullman County began clearing debris. Scouts and parents also cooked and distributed meals to volun- teers in Cullman’s ravaged downtown. While none of those efforts alone

could fix all of the damage, every bit helped, leaders say. Think of it as a mara- thon, advises Woody Watkins, a leader with Northport’s Troop 100. “Get out there and do what needs to be done. It doesn’t matter how little or big it is—it has to be done.”


Less than a month after twisters tore through Alabama, the deadliest U.S. tornado on record hit Joplin, Mo. Scout leaders there followed a familiar path. Seventy-five miles east, in Springfield, leaders at the Ozark Trails Council began check- ing on their colleagues and organizing collection sites. The first one, based at locally headquartered Bass Pro Shops and manned by Scouts and Scouters, was established “lit- erally in the span of 10 minutes,” says Jim Madison, a district director. In Joplin, Bill Davidson, assistant Scoutmaster of Troop 39, first contacted his boys and

their families. All were safe, but several had lost their homes. The next day, he and one of his adult sons, an Eagle Scout, journeyed through hail and rain to a destroyed neigh- borhood. “We spent the day trying to help some of those folks, picking up a few things from their scattered lives,” he recalls. His son also turned off power to partially destroyed homes and switched off natural gas. Davidson says training helped. “You’ve got to stay calm. You really have to take a 30-second breather and say, ‘Let’s think this through and do it quickly—and do it safely.’”



Seasoned Scout leaders share these tips for emer- gency response:

 Check on your immediate family, neighbors, and fellow Scouts.

 Try multiple forms of communication. Even if you can’t get through by cell phone, a text or e-mail might make it through.

 After assessing the initial disaster, take time to plan your next step.

 Wear your uniform—it conveys credibility.

 Try not to be overwhelmed by the damage. You can’t fix it all yourself. You can, however, make a difference.

 Expect to be physically and emotionally exhausted. It’s inevitable.

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