RAPID CITY, S.D. -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), along with state disaster recovery officials, praised the ongoing efforts of those who responded to the immediate needs of disaster victims affected by the June 4-5 severe storms, flooding and tornadoes that devastated portions of Shannon County and the Pine Ridge Reservation.
"There were many public and private sector organizations, tribal officials and members, and federal and state agencies active in the initial response to the disaster," Pete Bakersky, FEMA's federal coordinating officer for the recovery effort, said. "The contributions they made were outstanding."
Participating in recovery efforts during the first days of the disaster were the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Oglala Tribal Relations, American Red Cross, Catholic Social Services, Dakota United Methodist Conference, Hot Springs Search & Rescue divers, Lutheran Social Services, Pine Ridge Seventh Day Adventist Church, The Salvation Army, and Wesylan Native American Ministries, plus crews from local utility companies who restored emergency electrical power and telephone service.
State agencies participating in the recovery efforts included the Governor's Office, the South Dakota Division of Emergency Management, South Dakota National Guard Search & Rescue operations, Department of Corrections, Highway Patrol, Department of Social Services, Department of Human Services, Bureau of Information and Telecommunications and the Department of Transportation.
"There is no way to determine the thousands of hours these people devoted to the disaster efforts," Bakersky noted. "When a disaster occurs, people just pitch in and do whatever is necessary, for as long is necessary, in order to help those needing assistance."
Officials note that while the public is aware of the vital role volunteer agencies play in providing emergency assistance during a disaster, people often don't realize that these organizations continue to provide help long after the emergency phase has passed.
FEMA has facilitated the development of a Long Term Recovery Committee to continue the relief efforts. The committee is comprised of non-profit organizations, many currently involved in the recovery efforts. Members include The Adventist Community Services, American Red Cross, Bureau of Indian Affairs Social Services, Lutheran Disaster Relief, Mennonite Central Committee, Oglala Ministerial Alliance, Oglala Sioux Tribe, Pine Ridge Presbyterian Church, Red Cloud Indian School, The Salvation Army and United Methodist Committee on Relief. The committee will identify critical needs still required by disaster victims, and help guide long term recovery efforts on the reservation.
Officials urge anyone who sustained losses as a result of the disaster, and still need assistance, to register with FEMA by calling 1-800-462-9029. Persons with hearing or speech impairments can call 1-800-462-7585 (TTY).