Kelsey Martin (31/2) gets her fingerprints taken by the Muskogee County Sheriffs Department on Wednesday afternoon at Arrowhead Mall.

Percy Jackson II, Muskogee, OK

The gear was there and so were the people.

A variety of emergency agencies appeared at Arrowhead Mall on Wednesday morning for Homeland Security Day. They talked to the public, demonstrated their equipment and gave out information.

One outdoor tent featured decontamination equipment from the VA Medical Center. Members of a leadership class at the 7th and 8th Grade Center said they learned a lot from the VA’s display and several others they visited inside the mall.

“We learned what they can do when people get contaminated,” said Paige Turlington, 13. “And that they can get mental help if they can go to these people (Green Country Behavioral Health Services) if they’ve been in accidents like the bridge collapse.”

Bill Smiley, safety officer and emergency management coordinator, and Chris Ford, safety specialist, represented the VA Medical Center at the decontamination tent.

They said their system can handle both chemical and biological agents. A typical emergency for this part of the country would be a chemical spill from a truck or railroad accident.

Another member of the leadership class, Sarah Rowe, 13, said she learned about the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) that helped Hurricane Katrina evacuees at Camp Gruber. She also remembered a catchphrase from another information booth.

“Don’t dig unless you call Okie.”

“Okie” is the official mascot for Oklahoma One-Call System, Inc. Representative Luann Queen said her organization promotes safety regarding underground lines, cables and pipes.

“There are 70,000 miles of pipeline in Oklahoma,” she said. “Many contain natural gas and crude oil.”

For people who are planning to dig, Queen’s company maintains a Web site at and a toll-free number at (800) 522-6543.

Joy Sloan, clinical director at Green Country Behavioral Health Services, said she and her co-workers were at the mall to hand out informational literature including “Common Symptoms After A Traumatic Event” in Spanish and English.

“We’re available in times of crisis,” she said. “To the community and to the individual.”

Martha Alford, Muskogee County Health Department, said their booth used a box containing an ultraviolet light to show people how to effectively wash their hands in case of exposure to serious diseases such as bird flu. They also passed out brochures listing the contents of an emergency preparedness kit that they’re suggesting as a Christmas gift.

Betty Reed and John Gardenhire, both from the American Red Cross, demonstrated an ERV (Emergency Response Vehicle) used to provide food, water and medical help at wildfires, floods and house fires. The Red Cross also offers comfort kits for children and adults, and a CD-ROM that teaches families how to be prepared in an emergency.

Jack and Norma Holdridge, 73 and 72, said they enjoyed a display by the Muskogee County Emergency Medical Service.

“Our granddaughter works for them,” Norma said. “It’s a very good display. I think a lot of people don’t even know this is available to us.”

Event organizer Eugene Blankenship, director of Muskogee County Emergency Management, said his goal was to raise awareness about disaster preparedness.

Reach Keith Purtell at 684-2925 or kpurtell@muskogee

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