- When disasters strike, media organizations never fail in providing updates and highlighting the response efforts in the affected communities. These reports are not without a sprinkling of human interests stories of community heroes, resourceful initiatives, and some of the most endearing ones of people and pets escaping the potential danger together. Pets are family and must be ensured of safety during critical events when communities are forced to evacuate. Fortunately, more and more jurisdictions are recognizing this despite the added challenges it may pose in an already chaotic disaster response setting.
To talk about the nitty-gritty of animal evacuation and rescue during disaster response is Diane Robinson. She is the Disaster Services Program Manager at the Humane Society of the United States. With her background in education and passion for search and rescue, she joined the American Humane Association’s Red Star Animal Emergency Services Response Program in 2007. She created the Basic Animal Emergency Services student guide and developed and taught the Disaster Sheltering for Companion Animals course.
Diane delved into the hows of disaster response focused on rescuing and sheltering animals. Points discussed include:
- The Incident Command System (ICS) that encompasses planning and preparation for critical incidents and how these impacts communities.
- ICS’s mission to…
- Establish a coordinated response through the actors that play a role in the response operation, an efficient chain of command and span of control to assign responsibilities, and is able to communicate effectively.
- Be flexible enough to adjust to the size and needs of the operation depending on the phase of the critical incident.
- Understanding the legal considerations that despite human lives being paramount, the human-animal bond necessitates that animals be likewise taken cared for in such situations.
- The PETS Act that established that animals must be considered in disaster planning, and the challenges posed on the specifics of how this will be done.
- The importance of local response in emergency management by fostering working relationships for this purpose and establishing jurisdictional responsibility.
- Establishing an Emergency Operations Center (EOC), activating it for response in case of a critical event, and understanding the tasks it must perform.
- Working with and as outside assets in the event of a disaster that requires an official invite and establishing partnerships through agreements.
- The different types of animals that responders will encounter in disasters.
- The various sheltering set-up that may be established depending on the availability of the facilities and the things that must be taken into account for each.
- Conducting an efficient assessment process post-event by having back up who can rescue and pick up animals found.
- Important guidelines when performing animal search and rescue to ensure the safety of the personnel and those they’re rescuing.
- The transport and evacuation options for animals and the benefits, challenges, and risks for these.
- Some of the areas Diane clarified during the Q&A are:
- Getting a disaster plan and response set up for an agency from scratch.
- Recommended FEMA courses, training and resource materials to address animal needs in a disaster.
- Conducting vaccinations for the animals taken in for sheltering.
- The PETS Act and its scope.
- Getting organizations to register their capabilities and resources.
- The different types of agreements between agencies for disaster response.
- Limitations on the type of animals allowed in human shelters.
- FEMA Resource Typing Library Tool
- National Alliance of State Animal and Agricultural Emergency Program
- FEMA & Emergency Management Institute
- The National Animal Rescue and Sheltering Coalition
- “The importance of having the official invite. Too often people are self-deploying to situations without certification or knowledge of Incident Command.” — Brenda
- “Great Webinar.” — Carrie
- “Diane always does a great job.” —Dick
- “Wow, all of the planning and consideration that emergency responders deal with for animal issues during a natural disaster.” — Judith
- “Nice overview of a very BIG topic.” –Ann