Disaster Preparedness

Part 1

By Mary Oquendo

The days are gone when we can assume that emergencies and disasters happen someplace else. Weather patterns have changed dramatically over the last several years. Large cities built on fault lines are growing. We are overdeveloping land, which reduces or even eliminates natural protective barriers. Our interstate highway systems are transportation routes carrying toxic chemicals through heavily populated areas. All of these things add up to one fact: we should all be prepared for emergencies.

An emergency is an unplanned crisis. An emergency can be any situation ranging from a local building fire to a large-scale natural disaster and everything in between. Government response may be limited as well as taxed quickly. A disaster is often referred to as an event. It is a fact that those who prepare for such emergency events fare better than those who do not.

Be Proactive and Prepare!

There are many ways to help prepare you and your staff:

Education

– Take both a pet and human first aid class every two years to stay current with evolving protocols. I highly recommend the Community Emergency Response Training (CERT). It is a free 20-hour program that is funded by our tax dollars and trains you for all types of emergencies.

Either Emergency Management or Fire Department personnel teach this workshop. In addition, there are classes in emergency preparedness, which may be offered through local continuing education and at trade shows. I taught such a class at Atlanta Pet Fair.

Emergency Management Office

– Many municipalities have an office, and it is a wealth of information. This office offers CERT training and information on where to take first aid classes. In addition, you can ascertain the location of emergency shelters for both people and pets. If your local government accepts federal aid money, this office must include pets in their written plan of action. This is the bright spot of Hurricane Katrina. The Pet Evacuation and Transportation Standard of 2006 was signed, because they found first responders were re-rescuing the same people going back into a danger zone for their pets. The standard states that in order to receive federal disaster aid money, they must provide shelter for pets. Over 600,000 animals were confirmed dead or missing during Hurricane Katrina. Several months later during Hurricane Gustav, over 2,500 pets were taken to shelters. All 2,500 pets went back home. This office also has information on your regional State Animal Response Team, also known as SART.

SART

– Each state has a team since the federal government mandates it. It is made up of volunteers who have the same status as first responders. First responders are Emergency Management Services (EMS), police, fire, and military. SART’s responsibility is to attend to and rescue any animals impacted by an event.

Fire Department

– They may offer the CERT program. During non-emergencies, the fire department will come to your home or place of business to show you how to turn off your electric and gas. Turning off the utilities can prevent further structural damage. Do not turn gas back on until a representative from the gas utility has inspected the lines first.

Plan of Action

– This is a written procedure detailing protocols for emergencies. It should be a part of your shop manual. It should include the following:

Kits

– Part Two of this series will detail the various kits and supplies.

Owner Waivers

– You may have clients that are unable to pick up their pets. A waiver could read, “ In the event of inclement weather or natural disaster, [Your Business Name] is entrusted to use best judgment in caring for my pet. [Your Business Name] will not be held liable for consequences related to such decisions.”

Pet Plan

– You may have to evacuate clients to the pet shelter. Do you have the means to quickly and securely load pets into a vehicle for transportation? On the flip side, are you prepared for grooming clients to become boarding clients?

Federal Emergency Management Agency

– They are also known as FEMA. The website is www.fema.gov. This website has instructions for specific events, information on kits, and what to do afterwards. In addition, they have an app for smart phones and offer online classes.

Taking the time to prepare beforehand helps combats the Three Fs of physiological response to emergencies. The Three Fs are:

Flight

– the desire to run. There is no thought to where or what supplies might be necessary. It is panic.

Freeze

– where you cannot make a decision. You are stuck in neutral.

Fighters

– stay put, even though it is safer to leave.

Preparing for emergencies gives you the tools to think clearly and, therefore, more effectively. It is planning a route and taking the supplies you have already gathered. It allows you to make decisions because you have ready-made plans. Given the facts, you can make an intelligent decision to leave or stay. It is why first responders continually practice scheduled drills and update protocols. And so should you.

Part Two will detail various kits necessary for preparedness.

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