Posted by: Rusty Surette, American Red Cross Central and Western Oklahoma Region
Editor’s Note: The views expressed by Rusty Surette do not necessarily represent the official views of the United States, the Department of Homeland Security, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA does not endorse any non-government organizations, entities, or services.
After preaching to the public the importance of disaster preparedness for more than a year now, I found myself last month practicing what we preach.
Dangerous and potentially deadly tornadoes were forecasted to move into Oklahoma during the weekend of April 13. While spring storms with tornadoes are nothing new for Oklahomans, sometimes we get that warning from forecasters that the ‘big one’ may be right around the corner. We were warned this wave of severe weather may qualify to be the ‘big one’.
Immediately, we began reviewing our safety tips and shared them with the media and our partner organizations. We urged families across the state to make a plan, get a kit and be informed.
We were doing the same for ourselves. Many of us at the Red Cross office split the week at work and at home preparing for the worst.
In my own apartment, I reviewed a safety plan with my roommates. We gathered pots and pans that could be used to protect our heads in case a tornado took aim on our neighborhood. We purchased batteries for our weather radio, stocked our first aid kits and made paper copies of our emergency contacts.
Back at the office, our volunteers and staff were working to make sure the vehicles were gassed up, our warehouse was stocked with extra food and work and emergency kits were ready to go. Carla Young, Disaster Action Team volunteer, was in charge of making sure our storm shelter had flashlights, food and other essential items in place.
Thankfully, we didn’t have to use any of this here in Oklahoma City.
Sadly, however, our neighbors to the northwest were not so lucky. A large tornado hit Woodward, Okla., shortly after midnight.
Immediately following that storm, the American Red Cross team in Woodward was on the ground and responding to the needs of those who were hurt and displaced. We had relief supplies, people and plans ready to go because we trained and prepared for this kind of event.
Back in Oklahoma City, we were also working around the clock to get our resources and volunteers to Woodward.
Hope and help were immediately available to those hit hard and that’s the lesson all families should take from this -- being prepared builds confidence and confidence can turn tragedy into triumph.
Take it from us here in tornado alley: Get a kit, make a plan and be informed. It makes a world of difference when facing a disaster.