Prairie Grove’s Finest

OF­FI­CERS TRAVEL TO TEXAS TO AS­SIST IN HUR­RI­CANE HAR­VEY AF­TER­MATH

Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By Lynn Kut­ter

PRAIRIE GROVE — The top two of­fi­cers with Prairie Grove Po­lice Depart­ment headed out last week to spend two days help­ing those suf­fer­ing from Hur­ri­cane Har­vey near the Hous­ton area.

Po­lice Chief Chris Workman and Capt. Jeff O’Brien re­turned early Fri­day in time to help with the Clothes­line Fair but say they would like to pos­si­bly make a re­turn trip some­time in the fu­ture.

The depart­ment put out the mes­sage on Face­book last Tues­day that two of­fi­cers were headed to Texas and asked for do­na­tions that could be handed out to hur­ri­cane vic­tims. Within a cou­ple hours, the po­lice depart­ment had to change its mes­sage, telling peo­ple to call be­fore bring­ing any­thing be­cause they were run­ning out of space.

Am­ber Stucki of Prairie Grove saw the Face­book mes­sage and showed up with sev­eral items to do­nate to hur­ri­cane vic­tims.

“I’m proud of these guys,” Stucki said as she handed her do­na­tions to O’Brien. “This makes me proud to be from Prairie Grove. If we can’t go, we can send our finest there.”

Satur­day, O’Brien said the trip to help in Texas was only made pos­si­ble be­cause of the com­mu­nity of Prairie Grove.

“This is a very giv­ing com­mu­nity and is very sup­port­ive of us,” he said.

Workman, O’Brien and other of­fi­cers loaded up the depart­ment’s Emer­gency Re­sponse Ve­hi­cle with wa­ter, sports drinks, di­a­pers, toi­let pa­per, snack food, blan­kets, dog and cat food and canned items. The ve­hi­cle pulled a trailer with a util­ity ter­rain ve­hi­cle to use to help the dev­as­tated area.

“I’ve been sit­ting on this idea for a cou­ple of days,” Workman said. “Things are get­ting worse.”

Workman said the plan was to help some of those in the smaller com­mu­ni­ties around Hous­ton.

“Hous­ton is get­ting all the at­ten­tion,” Workman said. “We know some of the smaller cities do not have the re­sources to help their res­i­dents.”

The depart­ment’s emer­gency re­sponse truck and util­ity ter­rain ve­hi­cle are equip­ment ob­tained through the fed­eral 1033 Pro­gram, a pro­gram that al­lows law en­force­ment agen­cies to ap­ply to re­ceive ex­cess sup­plies and equip­ment from the U.S Depart­ment of De­fense. The emer­gency ve­hi­cle is also equipped with med­i­cal sup­plies and other items, such as ther­mal blan­kets, chain­saws, a gen­er­a­tor, hy­dra­tion sup­plies and tents and sleep­ing bags that came through the 1033 pro­gram.

“The whole point of this stuff is to be able to help others,” Workman said. “This helps us too be­cause if an emer­gency hap­pens here, this is pro­vid­ing train­ing to re­spond to that.”

The of­fi­cers left Tues­day af­ter­noon, with Workman mak­ing calls to emer­gency res­cue or­ga­ni­za­tions to see where to go. They ar­rived at 3 a.m. Wed­nes­day at a high school in the Beau­mont area, napped for about three hours and headed to a lo­cal fire sta­tion, which was serv­ing as a co­or­di­na­tion cen­ter. O’Brien said they then used the emer­gency re­sponse truck to trans­port evac­uees to shel­ters.

That op­er­a­tion closed Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon be­cause most of the peo­ple in the area had been helped and O’Brien and Workman then used their chain­saws and other equip­ment to help clear streets in Lum­ber­ton of de­bris and downed trees. In one in­stance, they helped re­move a tree that had fallen on a res­i­dent’s home.

The wa­ter con­tin­ued to rise and emer­gency res­cue teams be­gan to re­ceive more calls for help. O’Brien said they re­turned to help­ing peo­ple get out of boats and go to shel­ters.

O’Brien said he was struck with the mag­ni­tude of the storm and the amount of de­struc­tion it left be­hind.

“It made us ap­pre­ci­ate the things we have here,” he said. “These peo­ple lost ev­ery­thing, their whole liveli­hood.”

O’Brien said he also was im­pressed by the re­silience of the peo­ple of Texas.

“They’ve been through two re­cent hur­ri­canes and now this one. They were res­cu­ing them­selves.”

O’Brien said the trip will help Prairie Grove Po­lice Depart­ment to know what equip­ment they will need for fu­ture emer­gen­cies and what they can do to help with other nat­u­ral dis­as­ters or if one hits this area.

COUR­TESY PHO­TOS

Capt. Jeff O’Brien with Prairie Grove Po­lice Depart­ment helps clear a yard in Lum­ber­ton, Texas.

Chief Chris Workman with Prairie Grove Po­lice Depart­ment uses a chain­saw to clear this prop­erty from dev­as­ta­tion caused by Hur­ri­cane Har­vey.

Workman takes a break while help­ing to clear trees that were top­pled in this neigh­bor­hood in Texas. The of­fi­cers were as­sist­ing in cleanup af­ter the hur­ri­cane.

LYNN KUT­TER EN­TER­PRISE-LEADER

Am­ber Stucki of Prairie Grove do­nates sup­plies to Capt. Jeff O’Brien with Prairie Grove Po­lice Depart­ment for Hur­ri­cane Har­vey vic­tims in Texas.

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