Oklahomans are no strangers to natural disasters, two of the highest F-rated tornadoes (1999 & 2013) occurred in Oklahoma; and residents have recovered from ice storms and even devastating floods. With this in mind, the Office of Juvenile Affairs (OJA) is working to improve its emergency response thanks to a federal grant.

“We have children who are in secure facilities and group homes, away from their communities and families;  this plan will be used to implement an alternative communications system so that loved ones  can check on the safety and health of their children worldwide. We currently have emergency plans but additional steps in Emergency Operations Planning can help prepare staff at all the facilities, and ensure the continuity of those important services,” said Anna Kelly OJA Assistant Deputy Division Director for Community Support.

An Emergency Operations Planning (EOP) task-force will be charged with developing, publishing and disseminating a coordinated statewide EOP plan. Upon the completion of this statewide EOP, the task-force will develop a comprehensive training curriculum for facility staff and residents. This EOP will strengthen facility preparedness to respond and continue operations during an emergency event. 

“Our kids are trauma sensitive and a natural disaster, even an imminent one like a tornado warning can trigger anxiety; so an additional benefit of this grant is to help us plan how we can minimize the impact of any further trauma to the kids or the staff who work with them,” said Paula Christiansen, OJA Public Information Officer.

Through the grant, OJA will develop plans and purchase preparedness resources that support the standards developed by FEMA, the Red Cross and other crisis response organizations. The agency will equip facilities with EMT medical kits, trauma kits, generators and communication devices such as two-way radios.

"Training and drills specific to the plans need to be in place. We hope to have many of these completed before next spring and are  looking forward to sitting down with our staff, strategic partners, and our contracting service providers to coordinate these efforts,” added Kelly.

For more information on the Office of Juvenile Affairs, please visit www.ok.gov/oja.