Gov. Mary Fallin and the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management (OEM) sent swift-water rescue teams to the state of Texas to assist in the ongoing Tropical Storm Harvey response efforts.
Fourteen swift water rescue and Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) teams and one management team from the Oklahoma Disaster Task Force deployed August 31 to southeast Texas. The teams consist of 30 boats and 83 personnel from as part of the following teams: Broken Arrow Emergency Management; Bryan County Swift Water Rescue Team; Coal County Swift Water Team; Mayes County Task Force 1; Oklahoma City USAR; Pittsburg County Water Rescue Team; Quapaw Tribe Fire; Muscogee (Creek) Nation Emergency Response Team; Tulsa Fire Department USAR; Tulsa Police Department Disaster Area Response Team; Washington County Emergency Management; Grand River Dam Authority; Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation; and Oklahoma Highway Patrol.
The Oklahoma teams will help support the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) with water rescues as the state continues to respond to the devastating flooding that has already occurred, and the additional rainfall and flooding expected due to the ongoing tropical storm.
The teams are deploying through the Interstate Emergency Response Support Plan, a national mutual aid system that allows states to send personnel, equipment and commodities to help disaster relief efforts in other states. The state-to-state system was developed after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and was established in 1996.
OEM sent OK-IMT, the state Incident Management Team, to assist with resource distribution and other assignments. OK-IMT includes 12 personnel from Moore Emergency Management, Oklahoma County Emergency Management, Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Oklahoma State Department of Health, Oklahoma State University Fire Service Training, Sapulpa Fire Department and Tulsa Fire Department.
OEM Director Albert Ashwood said, “We are committed to helping our neighbors with any resources we have available as they deal with the continued effects of this record-breaking storm.”
Additional Oklahoma organizations responding to the impacted areas include volunteers from the American Red Cross, Children’s Disaster Services, Convoy of Hope, Mercy Chefs, Operation BBQ Relief, the Salvation Army and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.
National Guard helps
About 40 Airmen from the Oklahoma Air National Guard’s 137th Special Operations Wing departed Will Rogers Air National Guard Base in Oklahoma City, Aug. 29 to support the Texas Military Department and Texas Emergency Management in relief efforts following Hurricane Harvey.
Deploying in two waves, the Airmen and their equipment were picked up by a C-130 Hercules from the 136th Airlift Wing out of Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, Carswell Field, Texas, and deployed to the same location to wait for further instruction.
“What we’re doing today is responding to an assistance agreement that we have with our brothers and sisters in Texas to bring aide to those in Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana in response to Hurricane Harvey,” said Col. Devin R. Wooden, 137 SOW commander. “We will be there as long as they need us.”
The first unit, composed of 11 Airmen from the 137th Special Operations Medical Group, will offer their expertise and portable medical equipment to help evacuate patients from affected medical care facilities. “The Medical Group has been requested by Texas Emergency Management to assist with hospital and nursing home patient evacuation from the Houston area,” said Col. Keith Reed, 137 SOMDG commander.
Baptist relief volunteers
Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief (DR) sent more than 30 volunteers from northeast Oklahoma to Houston on August 30.
Oklahoma Baptist DR leaders received the call for help from Texas Baptists on August 29, and launched from First Baptist Church of Sapulpa the next morning.
The Disaster Relief large feeding unit, through which volunteers can prepare as many as 20,000 meals a day, is scheduled to serve near the Houston Convention Center.
“Through our relief efforts, we want to bring help, healing and hope in a disaster,” said Don Williams, Oklahoma Baptist DR director. “Circumstances overwhelm people. They’ve lost their house and all of their possessions. So we want to come in and show them that not only is there physical healing, there is spiritual healing.”
The group of volunteers will work for 7-9 days before additional Oklahoma Baptist volunteer crews arrive to relieve them of their duties. Disaster Relief has agreed to a 30-day of service commitment, with future plans to serve as long as help is needed.
In addition to the feeding units sent, mud-out crews, chainsaw teams and even childcare teams are waiting to be called on to serve.
“God is still in charge, God still loves them and cares for them and that’s why He sent us to help them through this difficult time. That’s what Disaster Relief is all about,” Williams said. “Not only do we give physical hope and strength for today, but we also offer eternal hope.”
Oklahoma Baptist DR has been on standby since the Hurricane formed. For the latest updates or to make a tax-deductible donation, visit www.OKDisasterHelp.org.
Price gouging warning
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter is reminding Oklahomans the Emergency Price Stabilization Act is in effect for all 77 counties after the disaster emergency declaration announced August 30.
The price gouging statute prohibits an increase of more than 10 percent for the price of goods and services after a declared emergency. Additionally, the act allows the attorney general to pursue charges against individuals or businesses that engage in price gouging.
The order was called due to Hurricane Harvey, which continues to impact parts of the south.
Hunter said in this case, the statute will protect Oklahomans looking to help those who have been devastated and ensure fair prices for those who have been displaced because of the storm.
“Our Gulf Coast neighbors need our help right now,” Attorney General Hunter said. “This statute will send a clear message to those who are trying to take advantage of others that they will be prosecuted for engaging in price gouging.”
The act is in effect for 30 days after the declaration. It remains in effect for another 180 days for prices for repairs, remodeling and construction.
Civil Air Patrol aid
The Oklahoma Wing of Civil Air Patrol (CAP), the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary, is providing assistance to the Texas Wing in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
One of Oklahoma Wing’s Cessna 182 aircraft left Tulsa August 31 for a staging area in San Marcos, Texas. The aircraft is a state-of-the-art platform and the aircrew will likely be tasked with photo documentation of storm damage. The images captured by the crew will assist emergency response agencies in the assessment of the overall extent of damage and how and where their resources will be best allocated.
“This is exactly what we train for,” said CAP Colonel David L. Roberts, Oklahoma Wing commander. “We have all seen the media coverage of the wide-spread devastation that Harvey has caused and we stand ready to provide additional support, if and when we are called upon.”
A CAP command post has been established in San Antonio to coordinate the organization’s response. Assets from across CAP’s Southwest Region are being utilized.
Lutheran Disaster help
Lutheran Disaster Response’s affiliate is actively present, collaborating with community leaders and officials to initiate the proper responses, particularly the long-term recovery efforts for those affected by the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
“Together, we have a strong history of working with disasters in the Gulf Coast area,” a spokesman said. “Recovery efforts are expected to take years, and Lutheran Disaster Response will be there to accompany those affected through every phase of this disaster.”
Feed the Children aid
Before Hurricane Harvey made landfall Aug. 25, Feed the Children was working behind the scenes with several of its partner agencies to allocate semi-trucks filled with food, water and disaster relief supplies for those who would be affected by the impending storm.
The first of 12 semi trucks loaded by Feed the Children arrived in Houston August 31.