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Stephens County 4-H host large animal disaster preparedness

(Source: KSWO) (Source: KSWO)

DUNCAN, OK (KSWO) - Even though it’s still winter, now is the time of year many people start thinking and preparing for storm season. 

Some Stephens County residents aren't just worried about their own safety, but they're also taking the time to learn about their large animal's safety too. 

The Stephens County 4-H Horse Club hosted the event Attendees at the Stephens County Fairgrounds. Those in attendance heard from Dr. Clayton McCook, who's one of Oklahoma Large Animal First Responders founders. 

McCook said the most important thing livestock owners can do is to have a plan. Just like they would have one for themselves and their family, they should also have one for their animals.

He along with a few others started Oklahoma Large Animal First Responders after seeing firsthand what happened to a horse facility destroyed a tornado in May of 2013.

"It was the hardest thing I've ever seen,” McCook said. “It was the most difficult thing that I've ever seen as far as those visual image and seeing those horses the way they were."

After witnessing the destruction, Dr. McCook realized he needed to get people thinking about an emergency plan before disaster strikes. While having a plan is important, he says there isn't just one specific plan for everyone.

"People ask all the time, well, should I turn my horses out or should I keep them up in the barn and that's really an individualized question that depends on then what types of facilities you have available," McCook said. 

Stephanie White has owned horses since she was a teenager, but knowing what to do in case of a natural disaster is something that hadn't crossed her mind until recently. White now believes it's something every animal owner should know.

"Animals are there because we put them there,” White said. “They're at our mercy when a tornado, fire, whatever happens. Whether we make a decision to keep them in a barn or turn them out they're depending on us."

McCook advised them to get to know their local emergency manager, firefighters, and other city officials because if there's a disaster, they'll be the first ones there.

White says tonight's event gave her peace of mind. 

"Just be prepared next time something happens,” White said. “It's not ‘oh what do I do now?’ it's ‘hey, I know who to contact, I know what I need to have prepared’. It's just one less worry."

McCook said if your plan is evacuation don't leave late because you can get stranded on the highway with your animals in tow. 

Through the presentation, Dr. McCook also gave ideas on how to put together an emergency plan depending on the disaster.  He also recommended keeping up to date medical records.

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