Tulsa Neighbors Work Together To Form Natural Disaster Response Plan

Thursday, April 28th 2011, 4:39 pm
By: News On 6

Emily Baucum, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- When a tornado the size of the one that hit Tuscaloosa is barreling down on your neighborhood -- there's so much out of your control. It feels like all you can do is take cover and hope for the best.

But some neighborhoods are fighting back against Mother Nature. In the heart of Tornado Alley, you can't control the storms, but you can control your actions. They say preparation -- having a plan -- is the key to feeling empowered.

The country stood still as the Tuscaloosa twister spun out of control. We watched in horror as homeowners sorted through the rubble.

"Who are the first people that are coming to your neighborhood? Your neighbors are," said Tulsa resident Mary Lou Briseno.

As a home health care professional, Briseno knows good neighbors are crucial. Her block's ready for a natural disaster.

"We mapped out the neighborhood," she said.

Together, neighbors coordinated a response plan using guidelines written by the Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security and Tulsa Partners.

"When you have a large-scale disaster as has happened in Alabama, people look at that and feel overwhelmed. Feel there's nothing they can do," said Tim Lovell of Tulsa Partners.

Briseno says preparing for "the big one" can be as easy as getting to know the people around you.

"Perhaps there was a nurse. Perhaps there was a doctor. Perhaps there was an electrician," she said.

"Who did we have in our neighborhood who were elderly. Maybe who had children at home."

Or - who has a basement neighbors can access in a matter of seconds.

"It is not smart to go anywhere else. The National Weather Service strongly recommends that people shelter in place in a tornado warning," Lovell said.

Alabama's experiencing the worst-case scenario: you emerge from shelter and the neighborhood is destroyed.

"Nobody ever thinks it's going to us. But it does," said Mary Lou Briseno, a Tulsa resident who has helped coordinate an emergency response plan in her neighborhood.

Briseno says it's important to keep a list of emergency contacts for all your neighbors, to help first responders account for everyone.

"Oklahomans are givers. They are. Oklahomans are givers. This just empowers us to do even more," she said.

Proving it's never too late to meet the neighbors.

As you and your neighbors formulate an emergency plan, you can pick up one of these step-by-step guides at any local McDonalds.