From the heart of the storm: FedEx Fire Chief works with recovery teams in Oklahoma
Charles Smith is Chief of FedEx World Hub Fire Services and a member of Tennessee Task Force One. He recently travelled to Oklahoma to help impacted communities recover from the disastrous EF5 tornado that ripped through the area on May 20. This is his story…
On May 20, I and other members of Tennessee Task Force One (TNTF-1) responded to the tornado that touched down in Moore, Okla. Information from local officials indicated the tornado was on the ground for almost 50 minutes, measuring 1.3 miles wide at its peak and traveling over 17 miles before dissipating.
We received our mission order through the FEMA office in Washington, D.C., to deploy immediately to Oklahoma City. In route, we were redirected and told to report directly to the Moore Emergency Operations Center due to the heavy devastation in and around the city.
We arrived in Moore at approximately 0630 hours on May 21 and sprung into action. It was determined that a large area had not been adequately searched for missing or trapped victims and additional resources were needed.
Two other federal task forces arrived before us. Texas Task Force One searched Plaza Towers Elementary School for victims, while Nebraska Task Force One inspected one of the local hospitals. Both the school and hospital were completely destroyed.
The remainder of the community was in need of a more thorough search once daylight arrived. TNTF-1 scoured more than 1,200 homes and other properties over an eight-square mile radius in two days.
The tornado in Moore caused massive destruction of buildings and homes. Moore officials are to be commended for their quick and organized response because the first few hours after a disaster are critical to the overall success of any recovery mission. I am thankful that my positions with FedEx and TNTF-1 give me the opportunity to work on disaster preparedness and to be ready to respond when situations like this occur.