Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Oklahoma Officials to Travel to Louisiana for Sheltering Exercise
OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today announced a statewide sheltering exercise that will take emergency managers and other officials from Oklahoma to Louisiana to run a shelter should a hurricane or other event require mass evacuations.
Today through Thursday, a planning task force and more than 100 volunteers will help test the Oklahoma Shelter Program, often referred to as “Shelter in a Box,” during the full-scale exercise in Shreveport, Louisiana.
The Oklahoma Shelter Program was first developed following Hurricanes Gustav and Katrina, when evacuees were transported to Oklahoma for weeks and even months. With both hurricanes, only part of the state of Louisiana was affected, yet residents were transported to locations far from their homes.
The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management (OEM) worked with Louisiana to determine shelter locations available in Shreveport and out of that need the Oklahoma Shelter Program was born. Now, instead of transporting Louisiana evacuees, Oklahoma emergency management personnel and resources will go to Louisiana.
Upon activation, state and local emergency managers and personnel from a variety of other emergency response agencies and organizations will be rotated in and out of a Shreveport-area shelter as needed along with any necessary equipment and supplies.
Oklahoma’s “Shelter in a Box” is a national pilot program developed under the leadership of OEM. Louisiana is the first state the program is slated for but other states requiring mass evacuations are watching the Oklahoma shelter program with interest. The Oklahoma initiative is federally funded under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), the state-to-state, or interstate mutual aid program.
Gov. Fallin commended all those participating in this week’s exercise. “In times of disaster, allowing people safe return to their homes as soon as possible is always a primary objective. Oklahoma’s ‘Shelter in a Box’ program takes us closer to achieving that objective,” Fallin said.
Key to the success of the program is its reliance on the partnership with local emergency management jurisdictions and other local officials. In fact, nearly 90 percent of the personnel on the Oklahoma Shelter Team represent local jurisdictions.
During this week’s exercise, a planning task force and more than 100 volunteers will help test the shelter plan including transportation logistics, computerized ID systems, mass feeding, communication, security, functional needs amenities and responder lodging.