By Joey McWilliams
BRYAN COUNTY – Nine people from Bryan County have been deployed to assist in the rescue efforts in southeast Texas due to the ongoing weather event that is Harvey.
Trained rescuers from the Durant Fire Department, Calera Fire Department and the Bryan County Emergency Services traveled to Texas on Monday as part of a collective effort from the state of Oklahoma.
A portion of the group going from the area is a part of the Bryan County Swift Water Rescue Team. James Dalton, Director of Emergency Management for the City of Durant and Bryan County said this is a project that has been in the works for last two years.
“We’re working with our City of Durant Fire Department and our rural fire departments, as well,” Dalton said. “We’ve been able to get equipment over the last couple of years and training in swift water rescue.”
Dalton said the team has now been sent to work.
“With the recent flooding and disaster that is ongoing in Houston and south Texas and over into Louisiana, Oklahoma Emergency Management was called by the Texas Department of Emergency Management to do what’s known as an Emergency Management Assistance Compact and come help them with some of their disaster needs.
“The state of Oklahoma then asked for swift water rescue teams to form an Oklahoma task force and go down and assist with active rescue in the Houston area.
“Yesterday (Monday) morning, we joined with other swift water teams across Oklahoma and made the trek down to San Antonio where the staging area was.”
Tuesday morning, the Oklahoma team was deployed to College Station, Texas, and has since been sent to Houston. As of the interview time with Dalton, the team was in an active rescue at 303 Memorial Mall in Houston. As that situation was resolved, they were reassigned to another location.
The teams are deploying through the Interstate Emergency Response Support Plan, a regional mutual aid agreement for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region 6 states.
Three personnel from the Durant Fire Department and three from the Calera Fire Department were sent along with Durant’s boat and Calera’s boat. The Bryan County EMS sent three personel, as well, and a regional medical paramedic ambulance.
Locally, teams from Coal County and Pittsburg County are a part of the group, which includes 83 personnel and 30 boats, along with teams from Mayes County, Washington County and the Oklahoma City and Tulsa areas and more.
Dalton said they realize this is going to be a long-term situation and that the crews will be exchanged periodically. The county’s assets (the boats and the ambulance) will remain in Texas through the duration of the mission.
And Dalton also stressed emphatically that no one should take it upon himself to go to the location to try to help.
“We do not want individuals self-deploying to any disaster site in Texas or Louisiana,” Dalton said. “We don’t need to be rescuing the rescuers. You need to have the proper equipment working and the proper organization.
“And if people really want to help, I would encourage them to donate to one of the charities like Salvation Army, United Way, the disaster relief through the Baptist association – organizations that are trained and are active in what we call VOAD, Volunteer Organizations Aiding in Disaster.
“Just do not go down and add to the problem that already exists. We appreciate their spirit, but this is not the occasion to use that.”