Oologah Teen Hopes Project Will Get Rescue Workers To Storm Victims Faster


Thursday, September 15th 2011, 5:24 pm
By: News On 6


Emily Baucum, News On 6

OOLOGAH, Oklahoma -- Here in Oklahoma we know severe weather can happen anywhere at any time. An Oologah high school student wants to make it easier for people to find shelter.

The student is leaving the classroom and going out into the community. He's working on an Eagle Scout project that will organize and streamline emergency response in Rogers County.

"We're in Oklahoma. We have lots of tornadoes so there's always that threat. There's always that possibility," said Matthew Tesson, Oologah High School Senior.

Matthew Tesson is just 17. He wasn't even alive when a twister leveled his high school in 1991.

History repeated itself earlier this year, as Joplin high school students sorted through the rubble of their building.

With street signs ripped from the ground -- emergency responders had trouble finding the people in the most danger.

"When they went up to houses, they were like, 'you have to go to this address.' Well, when they got there, there were no signs, nothing they could use to figure out where it was," Matthew said.

Stories like that inspired Matthew's Eagle Scout project. He's mapping every storm shelter across Northwest Rogers County.

"It covers from about almost to Collinsville to almost to Claremore and all the way through Talala and up to the border," he said.

It's a big assignment: the street address and GPS coordinates of all public and private shelters.

"It's also including ones around the house, if you have one in the garage or in your backyard. That way people can come find them after the disaster," Matthew said.

Matthew estimates there are about 1,000 shelters. He wants to give the list to search and rescue teams.

"They can go to the location, find it, and if it's covered they can get rid of all the debris so people don't get trapped and die in the shelter," he said.

He hopes his hard work will never have to be put to the test -- but if Mother Nature strikes again, he wants Rogers County to be prepared.

"I would feel really grateful for the fact that I had done it correctly and saved peoples' lives," he said.

Matthew's looking for the name and address of all public and private shelters. If possible, he'd like the GPS coordinates of the shelter. Matthew also needs an estimate of the number of people who would hide out in each shelter during emergencies.

You can email that information to Matthew at mtesson12@gmail.com or call him at (918) 381-4912.

And the clock's ticking -- Matthew turns 18 in December -- that's the deadline to finish the Eagle Scout project.