Is Tulsa's Emergency Management Prepared For A Disaster?

Thursday, April 28th 2011, 9:22 pm
By: News On 6

Lori Fullbright, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma – At least 290 have died in six southern states from severe storms and tornadoes that swept the region.  More than 200 of those deaths came in Alabama alone.

In a natural disaster of this size, an emergency operations center is critical to get help where it's needed most. But the tornado in Tuscaloosa destroyed the emergency management building, creating a whole new crisis.

Could that happen here and if it did, what would our city leaders do?

Tulsa's emergency operations center is in the main police station near 6th and Denver in downtown Tulsa. It's in the basement so it's unlikely a tornado could destroy it, but they have a backup plan and even a backup to their backup, just in case.

Roger Jolliff says the bunker-like location gives Tulsa's Area Emergency Management Center a lot of protection from natural disasters and terrorist attacks. During a crisis they'll have around 80 to 100 people in here from various agencies, police, fire, power, hospitals and social services.

"In this day of electronics, you can communicate very fast, but for problem solving, talking face to face is best to talk about solving problems," Roger said.

If the weather is crazy outside, in the center, there's a 300-K diesel generator to keep electricity going and three, 8,000 gallon water tanks to keep water flowing, and special phone lines that allow emergency workers to talk, even when cell towers and phone lines are down, plus, other options.

"We have our 800 radio systems, VHF radio systems, amateur radio systems we can use. Hard line telephones are good to have in a disaster," Roger said.

But, if something did happen to the center, the backup plan is to move everyone to Expo Square near 21st and Yale. If that building were damaged or destoyed, the next backup would be Tulsa's Red Cross Office near 11th Street and Highway 169.

"Each day when we leave here, we are capable of operating away from here if we can't get back here. We just have to think that way," he said.

All of the center's records are on computer backups, away from the Emergency Operations Center building so it wouldn't be lost if the center was destroyed.

Roger says what worries him way more than something happening is that people are becoming too complacent about storms. He says the big one will hit here and people need to be ready.