KY Tornadoes

Start Date: 2021-12-16

Description: We were called out for the Tornadoes that hit Western KY on 12/10. These tornadoes covered 227 miles, reaching 6 states, and 200 miles of it was in KY. There was quite a lot of devastation there amassed distantly versus one central location. Team Leader Dae had been on the KY VOAD calls which allowed her to get in touch with KYEM who was the primary point of contact for deploying any services related to behavioral, mental health, and spiritual assistance. Working with the local mental health community resources primarily in the Dawon Springs and Mayfield areas, we were requested for teams to the state park lodges, emergency aid station, FEMA mobile unit, a crisis center, and the Marshall County Public Library. The two main State Park Lodges - Pennyrile in Dawson Springs and Lake Barkley in Cadiz were sheltering people who had been displaced from the tornadoes. From Thursday 12/16 to Sunday 12/19, our teams provided comfort and support to these individuals, families, children, as well as volunteers, medical staff, national guard, and employees at these facilities for several hours at a time. The majority of the teams were able to visit both of these places. (Howard, Don, Janel, Kristen, Harry, Angie, and Dae) Our teams were well received at these shelters and many were appreciative of the presence the dogs had there. On Saturday afternoon 12/18, we also visited the Emergency Aid Station which was still being set up. Here, we talked with volunteers of different agencies and gave support to them. This was also a good opportunity for exposure to HOPE AACR for these groups. Harry Schlitz arrived and helped as Team Leader Sunday through Tuesday. (Don, Janel, Kristen, Harry, and Dae) Several team members visited the Memorial Wall in Mayfield briefly. Since it was raining, it was not conducive to have the dogs out that day. (Janel, Kristen, Harry, and Dae) On Monday 12/20, Hope Teams headed to the Mayfield area. We visited one of the FEMA Mobile Units that had been set up. We were there for an hour and then headed to the Memorial for about an hour. We had the dogs out and mingling with the crowd there where they could pet them as they walked through the Memorial Wall. Afterwards, we went to Four Rivers Behavioral Health Crisis center. This unit had been without power after the tornado for 40 hours but continued to man the crisis line during this time. They requested we come to visit their staff which they enjoyed and felt the dogs were stress-relieving. (Angie, Shay, Harry, and Dae) That afternoon, we did a training exercise where we had the dogs mingle at the mall. This was nice exposure for HOPE, and there were quite a few people there. (Shay, Harry, and Dae) On the final day of deployment, Tuesday 12/21, HOPE Teams Shay, Harry, and Dae went to the Marshall County Public Library in Benton, KY. The Four Rivers Behavioral Health Center had organized an event for children where they could do arts and crafts, play games, have free counseling, and pet the HOPE dogs for comfort. We visited with children, library workers, and others who were visiting the library. Overall, the HOPE Teams did well for this deployment. Since this was the first time Western KY had ever dealt with a disaster like this, there were a number of unknowns, and the situation remained fluid-like. All the handlers did well with these paramaters. They were attentive to the needs of the people they encountered, as well as their own dog's needs. There were many good interactions and connections made in the various places we visited. For some, the dogs brought a moment of brightness to their day - something they could look forward to during this tragedy. For others, the interactions with the dogs reminded them of their own pets that they may have lost during the tornado or pets they just missed in general. And for others, just the presence of the dog teams provided the comfort they needed which allowed some to talk more openly. We did make a note of one individual whom we felt needed further mental health assistance urgently and let the medical care staff know at the shelter. Dae also reached out to her contact who had mental health staff at the shelter know as well.

Agency: KYEM - Angela Roberts - coordinator for behavioral, mental health, and spiritual asssistance for this deployment
Teams: Howard Shore/Drake and Don Henza/Bella (12/16-12/18); Janel Zuranski/Gossamer and Kristen Smith/Comet (12/17-12/18); Harry Schlitz TL (12/18-12/21); Angie Moe (12/19-12/20), Shay Jacobson/Chia (12/20-12/21)