Elbert County to teach emergency readiness

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There is one thing Elbert County’s emergency managers have learned: There is no such thing as being too prepared.

And in Elbert County, preparedness does not stop at your front door. It extends to the four-legged members of the family who can’t fend for themselves.

The county’s emergency management department offers resources for residents and their animals in the event of a disaster.

The county will host a one-day seminar April 20 on disaster management, including information about personal emergency preparedness and a series for horse owners who could face an evacuation situation. The county is working with the Douglas-Elbert County Horse Council, Douglas and Elbert Community Animal Response Teams, the Elbert County Volunteer Corps and other emergency agencies.

“Emergency preparedness is a personal responsibility,” said Cory Stark, head of the Elbert County emergency management division. “We all have a responsibility to ensure some level of personal preparedness in our lives.”

Stark provides disaster management among 14 emergency response agencies in Elbert County. He was at the helm of disaster management during the 2012 tornado that touched down in Elbert County as well as that year’s Elbert fire.

The emergency preparedness seminar will provide tips for residents to be prepared for up to 72 hours without services, transportation or communication, whether because of wildfire, mass storms or power outages.

“We feel strongly we have an obligation to deliver all of the available tools for community members to apply to their lives,” Stark said. “In an effort to continue providing those tools and sharing that information with the community, we think it’s important for those interested to be able to access those resources.”

The seminar will provide guidance on what to pack in an evacuation kit and an emergency kit, from food, water, medications and first-aid supplies to copies of insurance forms, personal identification and cash.

Attendees will also get information about how to prepare their animals for evacuation. Animal preparedness comes courtesy of the Douglas-Elbert County Horse Council, which did the heavy lifting in 2012 when Douglas County residents were temporarily displaced in a pre-evacuation during the Waldo Canyon fire.

Horse owners are encouraged to keep an emergency kit for their animals that includes an up-to-date brand inspection, ensure their horses are routinely handled and can be loaded in and out of a trailer, and keep their trailers hooked up to a vehicle, ready to go during disaster season, said Paula Koch, spokeswoman for the horse council.

“They’re expecting another high fire season this year,” Koch said. “The safest way to handle your animals is to not have to evacuate, so if you can mitigate your property and avoid having to evacuate your animals, that’s most desirable. The next most desirable option is to have a personal evacuation plan near your house but within a radius outside of a fire zone.”

With the help of the county’s animal response teams, the horse council will conduct a three-hour seminar the morning of the emergency preparedness event. The afternoon will provide an open-house forum for residents interested in visiting with emergency support organizations that include the Red Cross, the Elbert County Sheriff’s Posse and Colorado volunteer organizations active in disaster.

The emergency preparedness seminar is from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. April 20 at the Elbert County Fairgrounds agricultural building, 95 Ute Ave. in Kiowa. For more information call the county office of emergency management at 303-621-6131.