Disaster Planning Experts Meet in California

Disaster planning experts met Aug. 17 and 19 in San Diego, Calif., and at University of California, Davis (UC Davis) School of Veterinary Medicine to set up a plan that includes animals in emergency response. Dozens of personnel from fire departments, animal control agencies, law enforcement, relief agencies and animal rescue groups reviewed and revised a document being drafted by the California Emergency Management Agency for its California Animal Emergency Response System, or CARES.

Communication among the many entities responding to a disaster is critical. Protocols for calling in specialized responders, including those that are designed to help animals, are essential. Reimbursement for agencies and organizations that come into a community during an event that crosses jurisdictions or goes beyond a specific location must also be arranged. The CARES document is designed to provide a standardized framework for complex emergency response operations.

Four counties that participated in a pilot project to examine and outline emergency response protocols sent representatives to the workshops to describe their experiences with disasters such as fires, and their approaches to improving response and communication in future. These four counties--Butte, Santa Clara, Fresno, and San Diego--are models to aid CARES organizers in developing potential templates and in designing appropriate training for agencies and non-governmental groups that may be called upon to help with animal rescue, transport and veterinarry care in the event of an emergency. Coordinating response for fire, flood or earthquake is a huge task for cities, counties, states and the federal government as they must keep in mind the dangers to individuals, pets, livestock, and rescue personnel.

Some messages from the meeting, however, were quite simple.

Lesson one: Every individual should prepare for disaster now by stocking up on food, water and medicine--enough to last at least three days. This preparation helps protect your family until help can arrive and frees up first responders to aid the most seriously affected people or areas immediately.

Lesson two: Do the same for your animals. FEMA says, have pet food, bottled water, medications, veterinary records, cat litter/pan, can opener, food dishes, first aid kit, and other supplies on hand. You may need to take them with you if you must evacuate.

Lesson three: Plan now to set up a place to go if you must leave home--and make arrangements for locations that accept pets or other animals.

More consumer preparedness resources from the California Emergency Management Agency.

The CA Emergency Management Agency and CA Dept of Food and Agriculture have combined with the International Animal Welfare Training Institute at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine on the California Animal Emergency Response System. The agencies will develop the system to provide guidance County Animal Response Teams and promote consistent animal emergency response efforts throughout the state.

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