Xinhua/Sipa USA/Newscom

Xinhua/Sipa USA/Newscom

Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the Oklahoma tornado yesterday. The tornado, which touched down at 2:56 p.m. yesterday outside Oklahoma City, left massive destruction in its wake and took the lives of at least 24 people.

On average, over a thousand tornadoes strike throughout the U.S. each year, but very few reach the level of devastation caused by yesterday’s storm, which had 166 mile per hour (mph) to 200 mph winds. Oklahoma itself is also no stranger to these storms. Indeed, already this year more than 16 tornadoes have touched down in the state.

President Obama has already issued a federal disaster declaration for the state and ordered federal aid to the region. Yet even though the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has begun to deploy to the area, the reality is that local governments, businesses, nonprofits, faith-based organizations, and community members will be the focal point of most response and recovery activities. Already we have seen this fact ring true in Oklahoma, as community members came to each other’s aid, the local Salvation Army and Red Cross mobilized, and police and rescue workers quickly responded.

For families and individuals, the best thing they can do is be prepared for the worst. Being prepared will ensure that emergency workers can instead focus on vulnerable members of the community and those in need. So to, it is the individual whose family is safe and secure who can volunteer at a disaster relief center or local charity and come to help others.

What Oklahoma needs now, however, is the assistance and support it needs to rebuild.

For more information on how to help, individuals can visit or