State public safety officials take charge of process of locating unaccounted-for individuals

State officials ask Missourians to help locate friends, loved ones

JOPLIN, Mo. –At the direction of Gov. Jay Nixon, the Missouri Department of Public Safety has assumed control of the process of locating unaccounted-for individuals as a result of Sunday's devastating tornado in Joplin. At a morning news conference, the department released a list of 232 individuals for whom an official missing persons report had been filed.  More than 60 law-enforcement and emergency-management personnel, including Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers; State Emergency Management Agency staff; federal partners; and local detectives are working under the department's direction on this top priority.

"Under Gov. Nixon's direction, the Department of Public Safety has immediately taken charge of the process of locating individuals who are unaccounted for following Sunday's devastating tornado," said DPS Deputy Director Andrea Spillars.  "Following the Governor's orders, we have assigned additional investigators to take and investigate official reports, to field calls, and to help locate each and every one of these individuals.  Just as all necessary resources were devoted to search and rescue efforts in the tornado's immediate aftermath, this critical mission will have all the personnel necessary to get information to anxious families, friends and loved ones.  Locating these unaccounted-for individuals is a critical priority for our department.”

Under the department's direction, a team of more than 60 law-enforcement officers, State Emergency Management Agency personnel, Red Cross volunteers, and local and federal partners are working 24 hours a day on accounting for these individuals. State employees that are part of the effort include investigators from the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the State Emergency Management Agency and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Joplin Police Department investigators and federal employees are also part of the effort.

The names of these unaccounted-for individuals are being cross-referenced with all hospitals that admitted or treated patients injured during the tornado, shelters housing tornado survivors, applicants for disaster assistance and the Red Cross Safe and Well program. Additionally, the Department of Public Safety is working with cell phone service providers to check whether cell phones have been used by individuals who have been unaccounted-for list since their names were added to the list.

Deputy Director Spillars also urged member of the public to help reduce the list and speed the process of reuniting tornado survivors with loved one by calling the Missouri State Highway Patrol Found-Persons Hotline: 417-895-6868.

To get direction on filing a report about an unaccounted-for individual, families and loved ones may call 417-659-5464 or file a report with the Highway Patrol in person at the Billingsley Student Center on the campus of Missouri Southern State University.

The list will be made available and kept updated on the Missouri Department of Public Safety's website, www.dps.mo.gov.

For more information, call (573) 751-4819 or e-mail mike.oconnell@dps.mo.gov