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Hurricane Harvey Relief
Hurricane Harvey's devastation stuns Oklahoma aid team leader
By Elizabeth Keys
Caroline Reed describes Hurricane Harvey’s damage in one word - decimation. The assistant director of Oklahoma State University Fire Service Training faced “just total destruction” and miles of misery when the Texas Highway Patrol escorted her Oklahoma Incident Management Team into Rockport after Hurricane Harvey pounded the area in late August. The most powerful storm to strike Texas in half a century impacted over 80 percent of the buildings in the small coastal art community. More than a third of the buildings there were rendered lost.
Reed is a certified finance/administration section chief for the OKIMT. The interdisciplinary 12-member team consists of personnel from multiple agencies: the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Oklahoma State Department of Health, Tulsa Fire Department, Sapulpa Fire Department, Oklahoma County Emergency Management, City of Moore Emergency Management and OSU Fire Service Training.
OSU trains the emergency responders in all areas from “guys dangling from helicopters to the administrative support needs,” Reed says. “OSU’s Fire Training Services outreach averages 3,000 to 3,500 courses every year, reaching 30,000 to 35,000 students.”
Her OKIMT group arrived in Rockport on August 31 at the invitation of FEMA and Texas Emergency Management. Not much was left standing.
“Our mission was to restore water and power,” Reed says. “The area was under martial law, and the city of Rockport was uninhabited.”
With no running water or electricity, the team camped out in the county library building.
“OKIMT members worked with city and county personnel to resolve many logistical and operational challenges so residents could return to their homes,” Reed says.
Disasters are nothing new to Reed. She has assisted with relief recovery after Oklahoma tornadoes and wildfires. As one of the top 10 grant winners in OSU’s College of Engineering, Technology and Architecture, she knows how to get things done.
Reed helped OSU Fire Service Training partner with OSU Biosystems Agricultural Engineering to fund a grain engulfment and confined space rescue simulation trailer. This one-of-a-kind rescue trailer helps train first responders and grain industry employees on working safely in grain storage bin environments, including rescuing grain industry employees from engulfment if needed.
Reed has been contributing for more than 20 years to OSU’s fire protection programs, earning three degrees including an associate degree in fire protection and safety engineering, a bachelor’s degree in organizational communications and a master’s degree in occupational education. She came to OSU to play softball for the Cowgirls, winning a College World Series placement ring during her pitching days. OSU’s fire service academic programs attracted her to Stillwater when she was a heavily recruited athlete in Olympia, Washington.
“I’ve always been interested in fire service,” Reed says. “You have to realize you may be the only woman in the field, but you should follow your dreams and not be limited to the confines of social norms.”
She continues to represent OSU throughout the country with many folks grateful for the help in emergency situations.
“It was a real honor and privilege to work with this amazing team,” says Mike Pedersen, a Texas A&M Forest Service resource specialist. “Rockport is better because of you! Thank you from all of us here in Texas.”
Assist OSU students affected by Hurricane Harvey through the Cowboy Strong Student Emergency Fund:
More stories like this are available for members of the OSU Alumni Association. STATE magazine is a benefit of membership in the OSU Alumni Association. To join or update your membership go to orangeconnection.org/join.
Published in STATE Magazine, Volume 13, Number 2, Winter 2017 by STATE Editor Elizabeth Keys