By Mark Rountree
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Vocational education centers in Oklahoma are teaming up to help people whose homes were damaged during the recent tornado outbreak in central Oklahoma.
Meridian Technology Center is one of four technical centers which will offer free safety instruction on cleaning up debris, heat stress, chain saw safety, basic first aid and many other safety measures during the early days of cleanup.
Meridian Safety Training Coordinator Alan Drew was to visit with homeowners, volunteers and community members in Carney on Saturday to talk about safety, six days after a tornado struck the town.
Similar efforts will be conducted by Moore-Norman Technical Center, which services Moore, Gordon Cooper Technical Center, which services Shawnee, and Mid-America Technical Center, which services Newcastle. Each of those cities suffered tornado damages either Sunday or Monday.
“The first thing is getting safety equipment and instruction to people who are getting back into these devastated areas so that we don’t have any more injury or casualties,” said Bob Sommers, newly appointed director of CareerTech.
The free coursework may include half-day or full-day seminars, depending on the nature of the instruction.
The instruction also will be available on CareerTech’s website at okcareertech.org, which will link users to other resources about basic instruction, safety and counseling.
“The good thing about technical schools is that we can adapt based on what the need is,” said Dana Wallace, communications and marketing director at Meridian.
Funding for the free coursework was made available through the CareerTech system. Each year, the state allocates money to technical centers to make available to businesses for workforce training, Wallace said. The CareerTech system has earmarked $100,000 of those funds — to be used by the end of the fiscal year on June 30 — for safety and rebuilding instruction as a result of the recent tornados.
Meridian Business and Industries Coordinator Rebecca Eastham is helping to identify needs and coordinate the funding.
After the initial cleanup, the technical centers will assess needs and make available free instruction on basic construction skills such as framing, roofing and installing drywall.
“We are about customized training,” Sommers said. “If companies need us, we can put together a curriculum in three to five days to meet a need. In this case, it’s a community that needs us. We’re doing exactly what we always do — targeted training dollars, fast turn around on curriculum, making it available, coordinating the state’s resources and getting the job done.”
CareerTech and Meridian offered similar services after the 1999 tornado that struck the Oklahoma City area.
For more information, contact Eastham at 377-3333.