Lexington police officers, firefighters and other volunteers are heading to Oklahoma next week to help emergency workers in tornado relief efforts.
Detective Steve Cobb said the group chose to focus on officers and firefighters whose personal lives get put on hold during high-stress disasters.
"But at some point, it's their families and their neighbors that are being affected, too," he said. "So, when you're helping, it's hard to ask for help."
The group will leave for Oklahoma on May 31 and return June 5. Cobb said volunteers didn't want to disrupt coordination between federal and local authorities or search-and-rescue operations that are typical in the first three to four days after a disaster.
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Ten to 14 days after a disaster is "when those first responders go from kind of working out of their cars and out of their engines to having to go home and kind of you know, deal with this," he said. "Because this is their community, too."
Cobb hopes at least 20 people will sign up to go. As of Wednesday morning, there were seven volunteers.
The officers aren't being sent by the city. If they had more to spare, police and fire departments would send people in an official capacity, Cobb said. The volunteers will be equipped to do disaster relief as needed, but Cobb said they also want to offer emotional support.
Lexington police officer Jonathan Bastian, one of the volunteers for the trip, said he decided to go for multiple reasons, such as "knowing that I'm in a position to be able to go and help brothers and sisters in the emergency services and just try to make a difference for them."
His church's recent emphasis on helping others also encouraged Bastian, who grew up in Tulsa, Okla.
The core group of volunteers will be made up of police officers and firefighters, but any people are welcome. Those interested can go to a Facebook page, KY to OK Storm Recovery Effort, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. An informational meeting for those interested is set for 6 p.m. May 27 at the police roll call center at 1795 Old Frankfort Pike.
HOW TO PITCH IN
Donations can be taken to the Bluegrass Fraternal Order of Police at 1097 Duval Street. Items needed include monetary donations and gift cards, personal hygiene items, baby items, storm debris removal tools and equipment, cleanup supplies, and personalized cards and letters for the victims.