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GFD Encourages Emergency Preparedness Plans Tornado Disaster Drill April 26

February 18, 2013

If an emergency hits - are you ready?
“We are right in the heart of tornado alley,” said Dean McFadden, Assistant Fire Chief for the Guymon Fire Department. “Tornado alley is from Colorado to Alabama, Georgia - up that whole midwestern part of the United States. We are right in the middle of it - kind of on the border, but it is still something that could definitely happen in our part of the world.”
McFadden says it is imperative that families are ready in case a disaster strikes.
“Be ready - make sure your family is ready,” he said. “Be ready to take care of yourself for at least three days… I heard a story once of a guy who got in a boat and floated down the flooded streets of New York City to City Hall where he asked for food… Our City Hall doesn’t have any food.”
Although there are organizations who respond in case of an emergency, McFadden pointed out you still need to take steps to take care of yourself.
“The Red Cross will come in, various church groups will come in, but worse case scenario if a tornado were to hit Enid… It were to hit Oklahoma City, Woodward and Tulsa…. We are out here on an islands basically,” he said. “We are by ourselves so you still have to take care of yourself for perhaps 24 to 48 hours no matter what happens. For peace of mind we hope everyone is prepared. I’m not talking about doomsday type of preparation like digging a bunker, etc. I am talking about just being ready for any type of incident.”
One way to be prepared is to have an emergency pack. McFadden said the FEMA Web site has suggestions for “get ready packs” as to what emergency essentials might need to be included.
“You can also Google emergency packs and you will find everything you will ever need to know about them,” he said. “Brainstorm what you think your family will need in yours like an extra pair of glasses, medicine, an extra change of clothes….”
There is also an application for cellphones that can be found on the FEMA Web site that can prove very useful he said.
“The FEMA application says what to do before an emergency. It has an emergency kit list and, you can add in meeting locations,” McFadden said.
The meeting locations are important in order to keep track of family members.
“If we were to have a tornado, I know my wife is going to the church,” he said. “If something happens you need to have a meeting place in case you get separated. If your house gets blown away - where are you going to meet them at?”
McFadden is one of the fireman from this area who responded in the aftermath of the F-3 tornado that hit Woodward last year - a trip that hit home to him the importance of being prepared.
“There were six to eight of us who went,” he said. “The devastation was incredible. They had six fatalities - I believe it was six adults and six children who were killed - it was a horrible situation. This storm was taking out 100-year-old trees like they were nothing. You have to be prepared. You have to have a NOAA radio so you can hear of a storm coming through. You have to have battery backup in case the power gets taken out.”
According to McFadden, the storm happened around midnight - when many people were sleeping.
“They didn’t hear it coming,” he said
Emergency personnel here got the call at around 1 a.m. to respond and emergency responders were ready to go - they were prepared.
“Oklahoma has a pretty good system set up,” McFadden said. “The state had set up an emergency operations center earlier that day because there wars a 90 percent chance that there was going to be severe weather in part of the state of Oklahoma. They were fairly confident that someone would be hit by a tornado.”
It helped that there are emergency response trailers located throughout the state.
“We have eight rescue trailers throughout the state of Oklahoma and 12 hazardous material trailers,” McFadden said. “The hazardous material trailers are 38-feet long and have the same thing the rescue trailers have on them: satellite, internet - they have anything and everything you could want on them. That’s what they are designed for is emergencies like that (which happened in Woodward). They called us and they called Weatherford and we pulled in about the same time. It was an incredible experience just going there.”
McFadden said the two teams were familiar with each other’s training.
“It helped that I had gone and trained them just six months before this happened,” he said. “It worked out well.”
So how did Guymon get a trailer? According to McFadden, they received it from Homeland Security.
“Here in Guymon, we have to do hazardous material and rescue calls,” he said. “We don’t have a large enough department to do just one or the other. We got a rescue trailer from them and we are going to get a hazardous material trailer now too and we have a decontamination trailer.”
The trailer is valued around $220,000, but the fire department will not have to pay for it.
McFadden has been with the Guymon Fire Department since 2001.
“I came on September 1, 2001 - I won’t ever forget that because of September 11, 2001,” he said. “I came on right before all of that stuff happened.”
Working with GFD was his first job as a fireman, and at the time he was a student at OPSU in Goodwell.
“I came out here to play football for OPSU,” he said. “OPSU has a cool intern program where you are an intern and can work like a regular firefighter six days a month as opposed to 10 days per month - they get free help and we got free training. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.”
McFadden worked his way up in the fire department going from intern to firefighter, captain and now assistant chief. He is also in charge of training for the department, where firefighters go through training every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
“There are three shifts: A, B and C so we train once a week since there are three shifts,” McFadden said, adding that he doesn’t think many realize what firemen do. “We are always doing something. We aren’t just sitting at the station waiting for a call. We out doing inspections, public education, pre-plans…. the guys are extremely busy and they are good at what they do.”
Currently, there are 16 paid personnel at the fire department and 25 who are volunteers. The department averages around 1,600 calls per year - a number that is dramatically increased over the past according to McFadden, making training even more important.
“Emergency preparedness is crucial in the daily lives of firefighters,” he said. “We train on how to put fires out, how to extricate victims from cars, and how to operate fire trucks. We train a lot on all sorts of things, so it only makes sense for us to train on tornado responses.”
Going to Woodward drove home the importance once again.
“Tornadoes happen all over the world, during any season and at all times of the day,” McFadden said. “Guymon (being in the heart of tornado alley) mass this training even more critical. There were many lessons to be learned from the response to Woodward and some that we want to bring to Guymon.”
The Guymon Fire Department will conduct a mock tornado response drill April 26 around 6 p.m.
“We will have our fire trucks, ambulances and rescue trucks in the neighborhoods between 19th and 20th off of East Street,” McFadden said Chisholm and Blue Sage will also be affected. This drill will include us going door to door and checking the status of everyone.”
If you would like not to participate in the mock drill, McFadden said, please notify the City of Guymon Fire Station.

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