I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the hardworking men and women with the town of Tushka, Atoka County, Choctow Nation, Oklahoma Office of Emergency Management, FEMA and the Small Business Administration (SBA), who have worked tirelessly since April 14 to help Tushka residents recover from the EF-3 tornado that devastated the small community. As the Federal Coordinating Officer for this Major Disaster Declaration, it has been a privilege to help coordinate the relief and recovery operation.
FEMA recognizes that it takes all sectors of a community to effectively prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate against any disaster. It’s not just the government – we must leverage the volunteer, faith and community-based organizations, the private sector, tribal partners and the public, including survivors themselves to ensure an effective response. In Tushka, Mayor Brickie Griffin was instrumental in safely leading his community through this ordeal. The local fire and police officials and Choctow Nation safety officers were first on the scene and began search and rescue operations before any state or federal officials had time to arrive and assist. Their actions emphasize the importance of the “Whole Community” approach to emergency management. No one individual or organization makes up the team, rather we are each part of the emergency management team. A team that I am honored to serve on.
On Monday, May 10, 2011, the Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) in Tushka will transition from a DRC to a SBA Disaster Loan Outreach Center (DLOC), in the same location. The DLOC will open at noon on Monday, May 9, 2011. SBA representatives at the DLOC will continue to provide homeowners, renters and businesses with one-on-one assistance in completing their loan applications, answering questions about SBA loan programs and explaining how an SBA disaster loan can help pay for their disaster losses. Everyone affected by the April 14 tornado – homeowners, renters and businesses should apply for assistance either in person, online or by phone. We want to inform the people of Atoka County that they may be eligible for assistance for everything from damaged real estate to vehicle and personal property loss.
I especially encourage individuals, tribal members and families who rent homes, apartments and other structures to file applications for assistance. In Atoka County, we have had a strong response from residents who own property, but renters are underrepresented. I want to ensure that renters are aware that federal assistance may be available for them – to rent a different place to live, find a replacement rental property, replace or repair vehicles and disaster related medical and dental expenses.
We will continue to work in Atoka County, specifically Tushka, until complete. I do emphasize that the deadline to apply for FEMA disaster assistance funds is June 21, 2011. Please don’t wait until the deadline to apply. Your federal, state, tribal and local partners are here to help and we ask that you apply for the assistance you need to recover from this disaster.
FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer