Tulsa's emergency responders prepare for the worst case scenario

Tuesday, September 6th 2005, 1:17 pm
By: News On 6

Already there are lessons learned from the hurricane response, and one of the most critical is that local officials have to prepare for the worst.

News on 6 reporter Emory Bryan says Tulsa’s emergency responders train for the worst case scenario, hoping they'll be more than prepared for anything less extreme.

FEMA provides advanced training for communities like Tulsa because the feds are never the first responders. FEMA director Mike Brown: "We pray a terrorist would never attack Tulsa, but we know that's a possibility because of the bombing in 1995."

Tulsa’s Homeland Security chief Captain Dennis Beyer: "All disasters are local and when you're taxed to the limit, the state comes in and feds come in when they're taxed to the limit." Beyer sympathizes with his counterparts in New Orleans, who were quickly overwhelmed. "They had a disaster times two a massive hurricane and then a flood that won't drain."

Repairs are just now being made to damage from Tulsa's greatest natural disaster - the 1984 flood. The city was caught so off guard the fire dispatching building was flooded. Some firefighters even got caught in the rising water and had to be rescued. One of them is now Tulsa's head of homeland security.

In New Orleans, local officials responded but were no match for the combination of disasters and the flood of homeless needing help, but there just as here, it's all in the planning and training and ability of local authorities to respond first.

Captain Beyer says even if there was a nuclear blast in Tulsa, the federal team that deals with it would take as much as 6 hours to arrive. Until then, the fire department haz-mat team would have to handle it.