Prairie Grove’s Finest
OFFICERS TRAVEL TO TEXAS TO ASSIST IN HURRICANE HARVEY AFTERMATH
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.
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.
Amber Stucki of Prairie Grove donates supplies to Capt. Jeff O’Brien with Prairie Grove Police Department for Hurricane Harvey victims in Texas.