Chancy J. Gatlin-Anderson
Special to Colorado Community Media
With the recent Elbert County Red Flag Warning causing elevated fire restrictions, residents have wanted to learn more about emergency preparedness, especially in the event of a wild brush fire.
The Douglas-Elbert County Horse Council held their Emergency Preparedness Clinic on April 23 at the Elbert County Fairgrounds. More than 50 Horse Council members and community leaders were present at the event to discuss county emergency preparedness regarding horses and pets. Speakers tackled several topics throughout the course of the event, including:
1. Considerations for preparing your horse for a disaster situation
2. Prioritizing and making prior arrangements
3. Preparing property for an emergency
4. Preparing a disaster kit
5. How to reclaim your horse
6. What to do with household pets
Elbert County Emergency Management Director Shane Pynes kicked off the event outlining Elbert County’s emergency response protocol. The goal of his talk was to increase resident understanding of the emergency response process so they can make informed decisions regarding life safety.
Pynes also outlined the various organizations that work together in the event of an emergency to help the people of Douglas and Elbert counties. These include the Horse Council, the Dumb Friends League, American Red Cross, Humane Society, Arapahoe Search & Rescue, Colorado State Patrol, Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and various local community volunteer groups.
After several speakers discussed general emergency preparedness, the presentation shifted, focusing on horse emergency preparedness.
Speakers discussed devising an individualized plan for horses in an emergency, where people can go with horses during a disaster, what to do if a person is not at home when an evacuation order is given, etc.
According to Ready Colorado, Colorado’s official source for homeland security and all-hazards preparedness information, owners should take several steps to prepare their horses for an emergency:
1. Teach horses to load.
2. Either own a trailer or arrange access to a trailer in the event of an evacuation.
3. Make sure all vaccinations are up-to-date and follow through with other preventive healthcare recommended by your veterinarian.
4. Have identification, such as:
A. Quality photographs
B. Brand inspection if applicable
C. Registration papers
D. Microchip number and registration
5. Give copies of essential identification information to someone out of the area.
Another big topic was the preparing of a disaster kit. Much different from a disaster kit for a human, horses require specialized items to survive and thrive in the event of an emergency.
In a large, waterproof container like a trash can or large plastic bin, horse owners should compile several items:
1. First aid kit (sharp wire cutters, knife, bandage scissors, elastic wraps, towels, cotton bandages, compresses, adhesive tape, bacterial soap and/or saline solution, Epsom salt, fly repellent, antibacterial wound dressing, rectal veterinary thermometer, hoof pick, twitch and duct tape.
2. Prepare hay, grain, and supplements in watertight containers.
3. Water bucket(s) and water with electrolytes if possible.
4. Leg wraps and horse blankets.
5. Lead ropes, halters, or shanks.
6. Shovel or manure fork.
7. Portable radio, flashlights and extra batteries.
8. Lime, soap and bleach for disinfecting.
9. Prescription medications and/or a copy of the prescription from a veterinarian.
Leaders recommended having a two-week supply of as many first aid kit items as possible. Blizzards or extensive disaster damage can block roads and prolong period of time between shopping trips.
In addition to presentations on disaster preparedness, local leaders fielded council member questions regarding protocol. One member raised a concern about the effectiveness of the Code Red emergency alert system. The member argued that the system does not run as fluidly as described by emergency management officials.
Anne L. Walton, Douglas County Emergency Management Coordinator, offered a rebuttal, acknowledging the system’s shortcomings while also encouraging resident proactivity.
“Code Red can get bogged down. It isn’t perfect. They are electronic systems. The issues with the system are closely monitored and they are trying to get resolved as soon as possible. But yes, the systems do get bogged down,” explained Walton. “You should be going in every year to make sure that your information is accurate. Be mindful.”
Pynes interjected, backing up Walton. “There are some kinks,” said Pynes. “(U.S. Sen. John) Hickenlooper is currently working to help mitigate some of these gaps.”
On April 20, Colorado Senator, John Hickenlooper released a statement on his website indicating that he and Sen. Michael Bennet have urged the Federal Communications Commission to adopt new rules to improve the Wireless Emergency Alert System. According to the press release, the adoption of new rules would help ensure that these systems are more reliable for state and local governments during emergencies and natural disasters.
For Douglas County emergency preparedness, contact Anne L. Walton at 303-660-7589 or by email at [email protected]
To reach Douglas-Elbert County Horse Council leadership, contact Cindy Adams (president) at 303-646-2303 or by email at [email protected]