By CHRIS AGEE
Following a week defined locally by a major fire and devastating storm, disaster relief has been a frequent concern lately.
In coordination with Palo Pinto County Emergency Management Coordinator Buddy Harwell, one group is stepping forward to become a clearinghouse for specific necessities after a disaster.
Known as the Palo Pinto County Disaster Relief Team, coordinator Cindy Maness led a discussion Tuesday morning at the Mineral Wells Area Chamber of Commerce and explained the stated purpose of the organization.
“We want to work with the businesses here in town,” she said. “During the Rhodes Ranch fires, we were set up and noticed six different individuals that went to the same business and asked for ice, tea, different donations.”
Establishing the DRT as a primary contact will make response more efficient and will reduce the possibility of fraud.
“We would like to see just one person going to ask instead of them being hammered by everybody that might not be legit,” she explained.
Since the team is relatively new, Maness invited locals who have become adept at providing disaster relief following several raging wildfires.
“It’s a tragedy that we’ve gotten so good at what we do,” said volunteer Carolyn Land. She said she has helped coordinate relief from a base at the Possum Kingdom Chamber of Commerce during several recent fires.
“We have a great community that just supports what we do,” she said.
“Feeding 100 people is a walk in the park when we fed 500.”
She offered the benefit of her experience, noting the importance of creating partnerships with those in the community.
“We’ve tried to identify our resources out there,” she said, explaining there are many organization and preparedness are additional keys of a successful relief effort.
“We’re pretty self-sufficient,” she noted.
Alan Fires, another county volunteer present at Tuesday’s meeting, said the needs of first responders changes with the length of a disaster.
He emphasized the importance of having certain items in reserve, explaining the first volunteer crews to report to an incident are unprepared. To combat this disadvantage, he said about three hours worth of staples such as ice and water are kept in storage at PK Lake.
While the PK Chamber will continue to serve as an operating base for disaster response, Harwell said a temporary site at the Dempsey heliport will also be used as a central collection point.
He noted the location does not currently have a refrigerator or freezer for perishable products and Maness cited the additional need of ice storage.
The DRT is comprised of 11 board members, Maness said, explaining the group is currently filing with the IRS for tax-exempt status.
To avoid confusion, she said all members of the team will wear identifying badges.
Mineral Wells Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Beth Henary Watson said she awaits an official designation of the group as the county’s primary response team. Expressing approval of the DRT’s mission, Watson said she believes the chamber could become an effective partner in future efforts.