City Manager's Corner

Good day Choctaw!  A little information for the community as we took some time for Memorial Day:  Remember why we had the day off.  Also, the Choctaw High School JRROTC placed American flags on veteran grave sites on May 24th at 10:00 AM in the Elmwood Cemetery.  Please remember our veterans who are not with us today and those that cashed in that blank check and gave to the citizens of the US, making the ultimate sacrifice for our nation.  I also want to publicly recognize our Professional Public Servants for the speedy response to the significant rain event we had last week.  Fire and Police Departments responded to multiple road closures and 4 water rescues.  We had no injuries in Choctaw, but quite a bit of erosion and road damage.  I salute all the Professional Public Servants of the City that kept us safe.

Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Response:

I know everyone is weather weary!  It is spring, but the continuous waves of rain and severe weather is taking its toll.  We feel for Okies West, North, and East of us.  We ask for your patience as your Professional Public Service staff works to fix and mitigate the damage over the last month.  Currently we have a few road washouts and closures—Choctaw Road is closed between 10th and Bypass Road, just south of the Trailer Park.  Emergency Management is working with the City on time-lines for funding avenues to get these roads fixed.  Another road closure we are working on with Harrah and OK County is Triple X between 10th and 23rd—we anticipate Emergency Management to give similar information on time-lines for funding to fix.  For safety's sake please DO NOT go around or move barricades to these roads.  They are there to keep us from getting hurt!

There are multiple road issues around the city, and crews are fixing the most critical issues first.  A quick plug about the City Website.  Please take advantage of the notification features associated with the website.  Click on “Sign in” and you can join and tailor your notifications.  The team posts frequent updates and you can be notified on all, some, or none.  For more significant information, there is an Emergency Notification System portion of the website where you can sign up for Blackboard Connect, which alerts you by phone or text about Emergency Notifications for the City.  Please take advantage of all the website has to offer in the form of notifications.  

Quite timely information for the current situation in Oklahoma and some of the surrounding States and communities, so I want to talk a minute about Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management.  It is something very near and dear to my heart, as I have been involved in the business of Emergency Management and Disaster Response for more than 30 years now.  Your City Manager is even certified in Incident Command through the National Incident Management System under FEMA.  Bottom-line up front—Disaster Preparedness is a personal responsibility.  Individuals have a personal responsibility to have a plan, stay abreast of their situation, and react appropriately to weather warnings and indications.  Government’s responsibility is to educate, notify, and provide recovery assistance.  A majority of citizens are capable of taking on personal responsibility for their safety.  The best guidance for severe weather events, in most cases:  it is safer for individuals to shelter in place versus trying to travel.  Many more fatalities occur when people either try to out-run severe weather or travel to an alternate shelter area.  I fully recognize the emotional arguments and anecdotal situations like:  “What about the elderly couple that lives alone at the end of the street?” or “What about the single parent with 5 children living on the 5 acre lot?”  Yes, those stories pull at the heart strings, but Government-run shelters are not the most effective, and certainly not the safest solution.  The most effective solution lies within the community—neighbors and family.  

Over time, we have lost our sense of community.  The acceleration of the digital age, 24-hour instant news analysis, and Social Media, has eroded the practice of “Analog” Communication—face to face conversation.  We communicate through text, meme, chat, email, etc., and we don’t get to know each other.  We are just “anonymous” acquaintances on digital media, focused on our busy schedule, moving through life in our small bubble.  Consider these questions as I refer back to the emotional arguments by those proposing the need for community shelters, and I admit, I am as guilty as any of us when we talk about the elderly couple or single parent:  Do we actually know them?  Do we check on them?  How is their health?  Do we assist them every once in a while with chores or small tasks?  Do they have family who look in on them?  Do we know their kids’ names?  What I am saying is our community (neighbors, family, and friends) is better postured as the solution to help keep the most vulnerable safe, not Government.  

There are a multitude of other reasons community shelters are not the solution:  City is under-manned to provide the support, transportation issues, money, dangers of travel to the shelter, overcrowding, and yes, liability.  These are the main reasons Emergency Management Professionals recommend shelter in place—it is proven safer and saves lives.  Now, that is not to say Community Shelters are not a benefit for the Recovery Phase, especially if a small town or city is impacted by a disaster.  Shelters are beneficial as a community rally point, to provide rest, hygiene, food and water distribution, and beds for those impacted by the disaster.  

With all that said, I hope everyone made it through the week with minimal damage.  Your Professional Public Servants (Fire and Police) performed 4 water rescues, and other city professionals were engaged in managing road closures and damage repair.  Please, when the road is flooded, turn around and find an alternate route.  Luckily no one was injured.  This was a significant rain event May 20-21 and the City took 5 to 6 inches of rain in the span of about 4 or 5 hours.  So much water at one time will not drain and will cause damaging erosion, flooding, and swift current situations.  Stay safe!  More to follow…

Your City Manager,

Ed Brown

--posted May 28, 2019