Eastern Oklahoma Region Red Cross holds damage assessment drill in Broken Arrow neighborhood

BROKEN ARROW -- It was only a test, but about 35 emergency volunteers treated Friday's training exercise in the Branch Creek subdivision as if it were a real disaster.

Friday morning about 35 Eastern Oklahoma Region Red Cross volunteers descended on a Broken Arrow neighborhood to grasp an understanding of damage assessment, which is critical in an actual emergency situation, said Senior Director, Emergency and General Services Brian Jensen.

"When a disaster hits and area, damage assessment people have to go in immediately to look at the level of devastation that has occurred in a neighborhood," he said. "Once that devastation is determined, we at that point can do assistance for the individual client."

In this drill, the damage was very similar to what residents saw in the May 30 tornado, not too far away.

Just in an actual disaster, volunteers combed the area, street-by-street, to determine whether the home has defective, minor or major damage or is completely destroyed.

Going through the neighborhood, volunteers found a stake in each front yard, which represented the level of damage that could have occurred to that home if a tornado had hit the area.

"They are going to go out, look at what that information says and determine the level of damage that has impacted that specific home," Jensen said.

Disaster action volunteer Douglas Murdock said he has seen many times how important this step is to the Red Cross and the families involved.

"It is a very detailed process, but that is where the boots get on the ground," he said. "We get out there and actually look at the home to make the decision."

The simulation is part of an ongoing training program through the Red Cross.

"The City of Broken Arrow and this neighborhood have been so kind to open up their doors and allow us to come into neighborhood to practice this drill," Jensen said. "City emergency management worked with us very closely, gave us the authorization to come in so they have been fantastic to work with."

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