Tornadoes, and Fires, and Ice Storms, Oh My!


Plans for Geary emergency response center continue

  • Tornadoes, and Fires, and Ice Storms, Oh My!
    Tornadoes, and Fires, and Ice Storms, Oh My!

Alan Fletcher, director for the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes’ Emergency Management Program, has lofty plans for an emergency response center within Geary’s city limits.

First, he needs to find suitable land for the project, as the facility could take up at least five acres or about three city blocks.

Fletcher approached Geary Schools about buying six acres from the district. However, that idea was nixed by the district as it has plans for future use of that land.

Other land options, however, were shared during a school board meeting at the beginning of the month. A similar facility that would provide all the same resources is currently under construction in Watonga.

We got the chance to speak to Fletcher and hear him talk about the needs and future plans for the development of the facility.

What brought about the idea for building this facility?

The main thing was the need for the community during their time of disaster. That way we can have resources available. It’s built with this idea in mind: to address the needs of the community. That’s why we wanted to put these facilities up in our community within [the town] area.

What benefits would be brought by the creation of this center in Geary?

The main thing is the emergency response center where all of our emergency personnel can gather. There we can coordinate our plans of actions and plans of how to address the community needs. The way they’re set up is, should we need to decontaminate, there’ll be separate entrances for like showers and a large kitchen. There’d also be a large hall for whatever we need to set up such as a triage or an emergency shelter.

With plans to buy the school land n ow out, where do you plan to go n ext?

We looked at two other properties, but now we’ve got to visit with our construction manager to see if it works because it’s smaller than we were looking for. One is two and a half acres, and I don’t know if that’s going to be big enough for the building. Now we’re looking at if it would fit on those two properties that we looked at... We would like it to be in Geary. We’d hate to have a disaster happen and then have people go all the way to Cherokee for instance. Plus it would be good for after-school programs because they’re mostly there for the community.

Why should residents be excited about this and/or look forward to it?

It would be beneficial for everybody to know that there’s an emergency response center within their community. We don’t know when a disaster is going to happen and for us to bring our resources together, to provide a safe place for the community to gather during a pandemic, it would be beneficial for everybody... We’re hoping down the road after this pandemic’s over and things start coming back to normal, that then we can start having community gatherings or community events, and this hall would be big enough to accommodate those types of activities.

Can you speak on any real-world examples this center could come in handy? For instance, this week with the cold weather and icy roads, could a center like this come in handy?

Let’s go back to October when we had that ice storm and the power outages. We were under construction for our little hall, the one across the Tri-County building. So we couldn’t utilize that facility even though we had a generator to provide warmth. Cody McPherson, the Geary emergency manager, was able to locate some generators and get the Tri-County building set up as a warming shelter. As you know, those are kind of small facilities and to have a larger type of facility where everybody can go, and gather, and be warm during power outages, that’s the main beneficial thing. The main beneficial purpose is to provide safety and wellbeing to the community.

You mentioned that you’re working with the city to get this built. How is it working together, and how did that relationship come about?

In the emergency management program, we’re kind of a big family and we rely upon one another. Especially with us being Cheyenne Arapaho Tribes, we’re checkerboarded within all 11 counties from El Reno up to Woodward. So with the Cheyenne Arapaho Tribes, I’ve maintained constant contact with all of our emergency managers, city officials, and state and local government agencies in those counties and cities on the safety and wellbeing of the communities and how we can collaborate and work together for everybody. Cody McPherson is just another branch of the family. We have a task force that meets as needed and then kind of once a month. That task force includes Canadian County emergency manager, Andrew Skidmore, Blaine County emergency manager, Jim Shelton, and of course our city of Geary personnel such as fire department, police, and public works. We meet to discuss the concerns within each one of our areas. How can we address what the needs are, and what’s coming down the line as far as helping the people?

Anything else residents should know as we await on progress in getting this center built?

Right now, we’re building all these other emergency response centers in our communities and they’re still under construction. Even though we’re pushing it, having the workers work double-time, and trying to exceed the time to have them up and running as soon as possible, I think our projects are about maybe six to seven months going toward completion. It’s a wait that’s well worth it... It’s something that we want to do as soon as possible. We want to get this done the sooner, the better.