By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK. – Normally associated with fighting wildfires and helping with forest management projects, lately Oklahoma Forestry Services personnel have been part of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
Forestry Services personnel are supporting the Oklahoma Department of Health’s response to the COVID-19 emergency by delivering critical personal protective equipment (PPE), medical supplies, and COVID-19 test kits to hospitals, nursing homes and first-responders across the state.
Similar to a wildfire incident, the medical supplies distribution operation requires resource and logistical planning and management.
Launched by the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, Forestry Services personnel began operations March 24 at the Health Department’s Oklahoma City warehouse, where medical supplies and equipment are stored. ‘
The Oklahoma Forestry Services, headquartered in Oklahoma City, has regional offices in Goldsby, Broken Bow, Wilburton and Tahlequah.
With personnel on duty seven days a week, Forestry Services personnel have made over 1,000 deliveries. In addition, Forestry Services personnel have maintained a regular schedule of picking up donated and purchased personal protective equipment from across the state, bringing it back to the warehouse for distribution.
“We are honored to support patients, the medical community and first responders by delivering the lifesaving supplies they need,” said Oklahoma Forestry Services Director Mark Goeller.
“Most people associate us with wildfires, but our role in emergency response goes beyond fire,” Goeller added. “Reduced wildfire activity this spring has resulted in our personnel being available to assist with this unprecedented event.”
While most of their time is spent training for and responding to large wildfire incidents, Forestry Services emergency response personnel also prepare for other natural and man-made disasters.
Forestry service members regularly respond to nationally-significant events, such as hurricane response and recovery, the 9/11 World Trade Center disaster, and the Columbia Space Shuttle recovery.
Forestry Services responds to an Incident Management Team to provide high-level organizational structure to emerging and long-term incidents.
Six employees also serve on National Incident Management Teams (NIMO), while many other personnel are deployed to wildfires and other disasters as needed. Forestry personnel have responded to ice storms, tornadoes and been involved with earthquake and other disaster planning within the state.
Oklahoma Forestry will continue to support the Oklahoma Department of Health’s COVID-19 response as long as needed.
Oklahoma Forestry Services, a division of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, is committed to conserving, enhancing and protecting Oklahoma’s 12.5 million acres of forests and woodlands.
Since 1925 Oklahoma Forestry Services has worked with individuals and communities throughout the state to create resilient landscapes, fire-adaptive communities and provide wildfire response.
For more information about Oklahoma Forestry Services, visit forestry.ok.gov.