DURANT – Last month, Hurricane Harvey hit southeast Texas with the worst flooding in the state’s history. Over the weekend, Hurricane Irma reached the Florida Keys with the strongest winds ever recorded in the Atlantic. The Choctaw Nation’s Emergency Management department has already given assistance to Choctaw families who were victims of Hurricane Harvey. This week Emergency Management will be in the vanguard of assessing the damage and needs from Hurricane Irma.
“Emergency Management is the department coordinating and providing individual assistance to survivors,” said Jeff Hansen, Director of Choctaw Nation Emergency Management. Hansen said his office began to closely monitor Hurricane Harvey when, “We saw it strengthen from a Category 2 to a Category 4 overnight.” Once the path was pinpointed, they were able to identify 3,400 Choctaw members that live in the affected counties.
To date, 31 families have been helped, including 34 children, six of whom were “special needs children.”
Several of those families who evacuated south Texas made their way to the Choctaw Nation where Emergency Management was able to offer direct assistance to them, including medical. They also were instructed in filing insurance claims and completing FEMA applications. One family, originally from Idabel, decided to stay and has already found local housing.
“I have coordinated the delivery of supplies for the Inter-Tribal Emergency Management Coalition,” Hansen said. “We currently have five Medical Reserve Corps staff members working from Durant with the possibility of activating up to 75 trained and credentialed MRC volunteers in the event that we would need them.”
The Emergency Management Hotline also made more than 50 referrals to the proper agencies for help.
Hansen said, the Choctaw Nation also has “one staff member in Atlanta, Georgia at the Home Depot headquarters working on situational awareness on evacuations, power outages, and road closures.”
In addition, after country recording artist Jake Owen’s performance at the Choctaw Resort Casino in Durant over the Labor Day Weekend, concert proceeds of $50,000 were combined with the vendors’ donation of $20,000 to make a combined $70,000 gift to the Houston Food Bank.
That same weekend, Brent Oakes, Director of the Choctaw Nation’s Veterans Advocacy program, was deployed with his National Guard unit to deal with the needs in Texas.
Plans began more than a week ago to aid those in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
Hansen said, two EM staff, two healthcare staff, and one MRC volunteer are scheduled to go to the Florida Keys on Tuesday “to work with the local jurisdictions on situational awareness, public information, damage assessments, documentation, and general Emergency Operation Center operations.”
Right now they are making preparations, including packing a lot of equipment and provisions for the team to be on site for two-weeks. “They will be among the first to assess the damage and needs of the area,” Hansen said about the Hurricane Irma deployment.
The Choctaw Nation Emergency Management office will remain open for business to deal with both ongoing disasters. Anyone needing assistance or information should phone the EM Hotline, 844-709-6301.
The Choctaw Nation’s Emergency Management team can be followed on EM’s Facebook page, Twitter, and Instagram. Updates will also be posted on Choctaw Nation social media outlets.