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Relief and Assistance for Oklahoma: Including from the NSSF

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News and images of the devastation from the tornadoes that destroyed parts of the greater Oklahoma City area over the last few days, in particular the suburbs of Moore (the worst hit) and Shawnee, is everywhere. This part of the country is no stranger to tornadoes and are practiced at responding, but rarely is such a large response required. There are literally square miles of wreckage where nothing stands over  3′ high except for heaped rubble. One of the first requirements of the recovery effort was to print and post interim street signs so rescue teams and residents could identify neighborhoods and houses in the ruined landscape. Scarcely a year has passed in the OKC without a tornado in over a half a century (they first started tracking them in 1950). In the late 90s the hits were constant – at one point, 11 tornadoes in 11 months, other times there were multiple tornadoes on the ground at the same time. Tulsa County, to the NE, is much the same. Though those two regions are the worst in the state, they are by no means alone. In 2011 – the same year as the tornado that devastated Joplin, MO – there were 119 tornadoes recorded hitting the ground in Oklahoma.

Reaction to the disaster was immediate and predictably (given the area) overwhelming, to the point where rescuers were forced to turn people away.

“We know they mean well and we felt horrible doing it,” said RECOIL's contact in the ICS Command Post, “It was overwhelming and wonderful but we have to be practical. In some places we were practically tripping over each other. We only have so much logistical capacity though, even with I35 opened back up. Right now we have to balance the need for a hard working, well-intentioned body with a shovel,chainsaw and broom versus the need for someone with a specific skill set – for example, that first day it might have been confined space rescue. What concerns me personally is the long-term need we have. Eventually scheduling demands will pull initial responders away, exhaustion will set in and drain some away…at this point we're looking toward the help we'll need over the weekend and during the weeks to follow. Hopefully the availability of volunteers will not slow.”

Donations of goods and equipment continue to pour in, from bottled water and clothes to items that give a clue to the nature of the area -livestock panels, troughs, halters and lead ropes, buckets for water and grain. In addition to providing shelter to residents and their pets, holding areas have been established for horses and cattle, huge numbers of which were scattered (and many killed) by the storm. Other needs, from shelter to meals to graduation caps and gowns for the seniors who were in their final week of high school are being provided by numerous businesses, churches and individuals.

Though numerous large organizations and corporations such as the Red Cross are assisting, there are many people who prefer to donate to local charities or smaller organizations. To that end some of our contacts in the LE and military community on the ground recommend Sheepdog Impact Assistance (members on the ground from Oklahoma and Arkansas chapters) and Team Rubicon (also on the ground). Alternately those wishing to contribute materials or funds can call 405-317-0738, that is the First Baptist Church in Moore which is one of the coordinating centers for donated goods.

Now, another organization contributing to the relief effort will be well known to RECOIL readers – it is the National Shooting Sports Foundation® (NSSF®). The NSSF is dedicating $100K in aid to businesses who suffered loss or damage resulting from the tornadoes to qualifying member companies located in federally declared disaster areas, with emphasis placed on providing relief to store-front federally licensed firearm retailers and shooting ranges. Funds are available to members suffering significant financial hardship that are unable to pay for critical and immediate expenses to resume business.

“We want our member companies to know that their trade association stands with them in these challenging times, and that this assistance is another benefit of membership,” said NSSF Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Chris Dolnack.

Bettyjane Swann, NSSF's director of member services, echoed Mr. Dolnack. “Our goal in providing assistance to qualifying members is to help keep their doors open during extraordinary circumstances,” she said.

“Many FFLs don't know if their insurance will cover their losses,” said Joe Keffer, owner of The Sportsman's Shop in New Holland, Pa., member of the NSSF Board of Governors and chairman of the NSSF Retailer Advisory Committee. “NSSF's relief fund could cover the cost of replacing computers, signage or other workplace equipment that will help a business rebound from storm-related damage.”

“This is a real pick-me-up for businesses that sustained damage from the storms,” said Bill Kempffer of Deep River Sporting Clays and Shooting School in Sanford, N.C., also a member of the NSSF Board of Governors and chairman of the NSSF Range Advisory Committee. “As a range that was affected by a hurricane in the 1990s and knowing the struggle of returning to normal operations amid the cleanup and repairs that need to be done, I am proud to be a part of an organization like NSSF that is willing to provide such help.”

Applicants for relief should contact Samantha Hughes at NSSF at 203-426-1320. A Tornado Relief Fund Application is available online. The deadline for submitting applications for assistance is June 14.

Note: If you are in the affected area and have reason to suspect scams, profiteering, price gouging or donation fraud in the wake of these tornadoes, contact the Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt's office at 405-521-2029. There are several investigators on the ground.

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