The Oklahoma Insurance Department (OID) is working with other state agencies and charitable organizations to provide assistance to wildfire victims.
“This is a major disaster,” said Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak. “It will take a coordinated effort, over a long period of time, to help these communities get back on their feet.”
Doak, along with officials from Oklahoma Emergency Management (OEM), the American Red Cross, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and insurance industry executives, held a news conference Tuesday to update the media and the public on the response effort.
“We know that at least 340 insurance claims for wildfires have been filed statewide,” said Doak. “But many victims didn’t have home insurance. We want to make sure both the insured and uninsured get all the help they need, as quickly as they need.”
The OID has Consumer Assistance teams in the following locations:
Noble – Twelve Corners Baptist Church, 15601 E. Etowah Road
Mannford – LakeChurch, intersection of Hwy 51 and Hwy 48
Oklahomans can also reach the OID Consumer Assistance team toll-free at (800) 522-0071 or online at oid.ok.gov.
Several insurance companies have setup their mobile operations units beside the OID consumer assistance booth in Mannford, allowing them to quickly meet with customers and begin the claims process. The program was initiated by the Oklahoma Catastrophe Task Force.
“Our task force is helping keep Oklahoma insurance consumers better informed before a loss and giving them more resources to help after a loss,” said John Wiscaver, Vice President of Public Affairs for Oklahoma Farm Bureau and task force member.
Victims without insurance may be able to get some help from the American Red Cross.
“This disaster has affected so many communities across the state,” said Ken Garcia, regional director of communications. “The Red Cross is offering assistance to alleviate human suffering and need.”
The Red Cross is currently assessing the needs of wildfire victims. Once the assessments are complete, the organization will determine who is eligible for financial assistance and who should be referred to other relief organizations. Victims need to meet with a Red Cross caseworker at one of the Red Cross Service Centers to get an assessment.
The Southern Baptist Disaster Relief team is also offering to help wildfire victims. The group is equipped with chainsaws, Bobcats and other tools to help sift through ashes and remove debris.
“We want to do all we can to help these people salvage what they can and eventually rebuild,” said state director Sam Porter. He said victims should request help through their local Baptist church.
Many victims have asked about assistance from FEMA. OEM director Michelann Ooten reminded the public that all damage has to be documented before the state can submit a FEMA request.
“Here in Oklahoma, we know how to handle disasters,” Ooten said. “So we know how to fill out the paperwork and get that process going as quickly as possible.”