In light of Oklahoma, locals share lessons learned in the days following the March 2012 tornado

As tornado victims, first responders, and volunteers in Oklahoma prepare for the long road to recovery, local residents acutely remember dealing with the aftermath of the March 2012 tornado.

For residents of Grant, Kenton, and Campbell counties in Kentucky, along with Clermont County in Ohio, response to the 2012 tornado that tore a large swathe of damage was described as chaotic, unexpected and at times, uplifting.

Volunteers react

Russ Harney, Crittenden Baptist Church member and relief organizer, said that his community didn't understand the huge response they would have from people donating and volunteering. At first the organizers were overwhelmed because of the flooding of donations and not enough volunteers, he said. Then the volunteers came.

If there was one thing Lisa Raterman, a Northern Kentucky resident who helped spearhead a lot of organization online for donations and volunteers, it would have been to prepare for the type of donations received.

She wouldn't recommend donating clothing right away for logistical reasons, such as washing by volunteers, and storage for those who lost their homes. She stated from her early experience in March 2012, donating money may be the best option for those looking to help. So much of what is needed by victims early on can be purchased, Raterman said.

Also, she'd recommend volunteers look to give to more places than just one entity, since so many places will be supporting recovery efforts for victims.

Overall, Harney learned how much people were willing to help and give freely of time, money, and supplies.

"My thought is that in this time, in a disaster that those things need to be thought about initially, because its going to wind up being a long term, long range event," he said.

Emergency responders
For first responders, such as Grant County Sheriff Chuck Dills, said their issue was managing people and keeping victims of the storm from being victimized further.

Dill said the toughest part after the first 24 hours was thieves posing as contractors and gawkers coming to see damage as survivors tried to deal with going through a tornado.

"We had a lot of people that were sight seeing, just curious of what had happened, just driving through and it does make it complicated for the rescue workers and the clean-up crews that were trying to do their job," Dill said.

Eventually, the sheriff's office set up a sign in sheet to make sure the survivor and contractor names matched, Dill said.

Additionally his department is now better equipped. The sheriffs office did not have enough generators to support rescue equipment a year ago. Dills says his office now has plenty.

Victims of the storm

Isabel Cooper was at home with two of her grandchildren when the storm hit. While she was thankful nobody in her neighborhood was injured, she said her emotions were all over the place a full day later – from realizing the danger of the situation to dealing with a roofer who she says took advantage of her in a time of stress.

Her advice for anyone needing house repairs after a major ordeal is to read every word of a contract, no matter how much of a hurry you are to get it fixed.

For Dawn Lambert, another survivor of the March 2012 storm, seeing Oklahoma's devastation, was a bit more reflective.

"We were just luckier than they were, because they got it a lot worse than us," Lambert said.

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