Local firefighters are answering the call for aid, sending teams trained in water rescue to help flooding victims in Houston.

Local firefighters are answering the call for aid, sending teams trained in water rescue to help flooding victims in Houston.

“We were notified of the request for Flood and Swiftwater Technician (F.AS.T.)–certified firefighters (Tuesday) night through the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management,” Shawnee Fire Chief Dru Tischer said.

Crews packed up and left around noon Wednesday morning for a potential 14-day deployment, he said.

The Shawnee Fire Department is sending a crew of F.A.S.T.-certified firefighters along with crews from the Tecumseh, Seminole and Guthrie Fire Departments to assist with rescue operations in Houston.

Tischer said his crew of four Shawnee firefighters will be taking the department’s 16-foot aluminum boat and 14-foot inflatable boat.

“I am glad our department is in a position to send crews to help with the devastating need in Houston,” Tischer said, “I know these guys will be a tremendous asset to the rescue operation.”

Guthrie Fire Chief Eric Harlow said it's an honor for his crew to be able to help out.

"Oklahoma is known for having our share of natural disasters,” he said. “We've received help from our friends in other states and this is our chance to gladly return those favors. We are honored at the chance to help our neighbors in Texas as the endure this tragic event."

On the Tecumseh Fire Department's Facebook Page, it read, “Tecumseh Fire Department alongside Shawnee, Guthrie and Seminole have deployed swift water personnel and boats this morning. They will report to College Station, Texas, for staging and await an assignment. … Please keep all of the personnel from each of these departments in your prayers for safe travels, and safe operations during this seven-day deployment.”

On the Seminole Fire Department's Facebook Page Wednesday, a post announced, “Our rescue boat and crew ... left out (Wednesday) morning to assist in the efforts in the aftermath of #HurricaneHarvey.

Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers as they travel and work in Houston. They will meet up with Guthrie Fire, Shawnee Fire, and Tecumseh Fire.”

State of emergency

Governor Mary Fallin declared a State of Emergency for Oklahoma so that state, county, and local governments can adequately respond to the mutual aid requests and needs of the Gulf Coast states. Under the Executive Order, state agencies can make emergency purchases and acquisitions needed to expedite the delivery of resources to local jurisdictions.

Weather

Tropical Storm Harvey made landfall again in southern Louisiana near Cameron with 45 mph sustained winds moving north at 9 mph. The primary threat continues to be excessive rainfall across parts of western Louisiana where total amounts greater than 15 inches is possible. Since Harvey is expected to increase speed and move northeast, it should move out of Louisiana by midday Thursday. Primary impacts today are widespread rainfall of 2-5 inches with a few areas near 8 inches.

Oklahoma response

OEM has been working with the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) and FEMA Region 6 in Denton to support resource requests from the state of Texas the Interstate Emergency Response Support Plan, a regional mutual aid agreement for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region 6 states, and the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC). EMAC is a national mutual aid system that allows states to send personnel, equipment and commodities to help disaster relief efforts in other states. 

Eight additional swift water teams deployed to Texas this morning from Chickasha Fire, Guthrie Fire, McCurtain County, McIntosh County Fire, Seminole Fire, Shawnee Fire, Tecumseh Fire and Yukon Fire.

The full list of all teams deployed to Texas since Monday is included below:

Bartlesville Fire Department Swift Water Team

Broken Arrow Emergency Management

Bryan County Swift Water Rescue Team

Cherokee County Swift Water Team

Cherokee Nation Swift Water Team

Chickasha Fire Swift Water Team 

Coal County Swift Water Team

Craig County Swift Water Team

Grand River Dam Authority

Guthrie Fire Swift Water Team 

Guymon Fire Swift Water Team

Mayes County Task Force 1

McCurtain Swift Water Team 

McIntosh Fire Swift Water Team 

Muscogee (Creek) Nation Emergency Response Team

Oklahoma City USAR

Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

Oklahoma Highway Patrol

Pittsburg County Water Rescue Team

Quapaw Tribe Fire

Seminole Fire Swift Water Team 

Shawnee Fire Swift Water Team 

Tecumseh Fire Swift Water Team 

Tulsa Fire Department USAR

Tulsa Police Department Disaster Area Response Team

Wagoner County Swift Water Team

Washington County Emergency Management

Yukon Fire Swift Water Team 

OK-IMT, the state Incident Management Team, deployed to Texas earlier this week to provide assistance 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.

Additionally, three OEM staff members are assigned to the TDEM Operations Center and the FEMA Region 6 office in Denton to help coordinate EMAC request and other out of state resources.

The Oklahoma National Guard is responding to another request from the Texas Military Department to send personnel and equipment to support medical evacuations from southeast Texas.

An Oklahoma shelter operations team is preparing to deploy to Shreveport, Louisiana, to manage two shelters for evacuees who have been displaced by Tropical Storm Harvey. The shelters are planned to open later this week and will accommodate at least 3,500 people.

Several Oklahoma EMS agencies have provided units per the Federal request for EMS support. This is an operation through FEMA with contracted EMS agencies.

Voluntary agency support

Numerous Oklahoma voluntary agencies are also sending staff and volunteers to support relief efforts in Texas, including the American Red Cross, Children’s Disaster Services, Convoy of Hope, Mercy Chefs, Operation BBQ Relief, the Salvation Army and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.

Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief has sent two shower trailers to Houston and a large feeding unit (45-person, producing 25,000 meals/day) to serve meals at the Houston convention center.

The American Red Cross is supporting responders and family members of VA patients being transported to Oklahoma through the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS). A medical evacuation center opened today at the Will Rogers World Airport.

Do not self-deploy

Oklahomans are discouraged from self-deploying to Texas or Louisiana. Unexpectedly showing up to any of the communities that have been impacted by Hurricane Harvey will create an additional burden for first responders. In most cases, access to the affected areas is extremely limited due to high water. As Oklahoma continues to receive requests for personnel, equipment and supplies, OEM will look to local county and municipal emergency managers to identify the needed resources. OEM is working through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), an interstate mutual aid agreement, to deploy resources to the affected areas.

Find friends, family

To find friends or family in the affected area, visit www.safeandwell.org.

How to help

Oklahoma Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) offers the following tips:

When disaster strikes, the best way to support survivors of emergencies or disasters in Oklahoma is with cash donations to reputable voluntary organizations. Cash donations allow relief organizations or survivors to purchase what they need, when and where they need it. Buying supplies locally helps the local community recover by helping local businesses pay salaries and by keeping tax revenues in the community.

Do not send unsolicited donations of used clothing, miscellaneous items or perishable foods, which must be sorted, warehoused, transported and distributed. This requires more efforts and staffing to manage those resources and takes away from recovery efforts. If you must donate in-kind goods, make certain that they are specifically requested and needed by recognized organizations.

For Oklahomans who wish to volunteer in response to Harvey, visit the websites for the Texas and National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) for a list of dozens of faith-based, community, nonprofit and non-governmental organizations that include volunteer engagement as a key component of their operations.