By Travis Sloat
Phoenix Staff Writer
WAGONER — All eyes in the Wagoner Civic Center were focused on Oklahoma Task Force-1 search and rescue dogs Magnum and Justice as they climbed ladders Saturday.
The dogs, sponsored by the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation and handled by Vincent Stoops and Jeff Leon, were part of the second annual Wagoner County Disaster Preparedness Expo. After the ladder climbing, Magnum showed off his search and rescue skills by finding Leon hidden in a “tunnel” constructed of barrels.
The Expo, which showcased the services available to the citizens of Wagoner County in an emergency, nearly tripled in attendance this year, with almost 1,000 people stopping by.
Heath Underwood, the emergency management director for Wagoner County, said the event also provides a network for law enforcement and state agencies.
“We’re here to show the public what we offer if something happens,” Underwood said. “It gives them information that can help them protect their families. This year we moved it from the middle school to the Wagoner Civic Center, and next year it looks like we’ll have to move it again because it keeps growing.”
The Expo was geared for information and service availability, but also included a lot of fun things for kids as well. This year an Easter egg hunt was added, and Underwood said that was something they would continue to do at future Expos.
Bill Hurd, a retired Okay resident, said the event was excellent.
“We appreciate all these volunteers who put this together,” Hurd said. “This is a great way to facilitate safety in the community. The kids love it, and the more they know about safety, the better off they are.”
Hurd, who brought his four children to the event, said he definitely plans on returning next year.
“We’ll be back every year,” he said. “Safety is something that has to be thought about. All the equipment in the world doesn’t do any good unless you can use it. You have to have the knowledge to use what’s around you.”
The Expo attendees were also treated to the cutting up of a car with various emergency tools, put on by the Coweta Fire Department. As the crowd looked on, three firefighters removed a door and the roof from the car, then used a mobile airbag to jack the car up so they could look underneath it.
In addition to the demonstrations, there were storm and safe room showings, new emergency vehicles shown off, and even a blood drive by the Oklahoma Blood Institute.
Bob Haley, the police chief of Wagoner, said the continued growth of the Expo is a good thing.
“It gives the residents of the city and county an idea of what we do and what’s out there,” Haley said. “A lot of people don’t know about the Emergency Management division, and they don’t know it’s available. It’s really a great thing.”
Reach Travis Sloat at (918) 684-2908 or tsloat @muskogeephoenix.com.