Animals (both wild and domestic) are a valued component of human life and as we work to build our disaster response plans we cannot forget pets and wildlife–their lives are in our hands.
Why This Matters: According to IFAW, what differentiates a successful disaster response from a fiasco usually isn’t the plan itself, but the amount of practice that goes into each element, from establishing trust between government agencies and other stakeholders, to executing search and rescue operations in difficult conditions.
This means that we have to start preparing disaster contingency plans on a community level and practice them often–as plans aren’t worth the paper they’re written on if people don’t know what to do and where to go.
The Vision: The keys to minimizing damage are necessary at every rung of the social spectrum: in our homes, our communities, and at the municipal, county, state, and federal levels. As such, IFAW strongly recommends following the first core principle of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) strategic plan, which is “to build a culture of preparedness”, admitting that it can be difficult to evacuate animals and provide them with shelter, food, and veterinary services, unless a system has already been established to design and carry out emergency plans.
To ensure that animals are properly incorporated into the emergency planning process, IFAW recommends the following:
- Passing of laws regarding emergency operation plans that cover animal evacuation, rescue, and recovery;
- Focusing on overall preparedness and training using overhead disaster management to ensure clear collaboration;
- Ensuring the implementation of disaster-specific training to ensure team is well-versed on skill sets including logistics, planning, overhead management, animal care and control, and veterinary care;
- More time and resources focused on planning and working together and coordination between authorities in the US, at every level from the individual to the community, to the states, municipalities, up to the federal level;
- Ensuring that capacity exists to implement an emergency response systems Once a flood, wildfire, or earthquake hits. This should ensure critical equipment like medical supplies and communications technology is always available and in supply on site;
- Authorities can also help to prevent future damage by requiring higher standards for new construction, encouraging building owners to follow “ember resistant” retrofitting and maintenance guidelines, and taking other preventive measures;
- Securing wildlife corridors for animals to ensure an escape route as we ensure evacuation routes for human beings in the time of crisis.
According to the Michigan State University Animal Legal & Historical Center, as of 2016 over thirty states and the District of Columbia had passed laws or emergency operation plans covering animal evacuation, rescue, and recovery, but all 50 states need such provisions.
Advice for Pet Owners:
It just takes a few simple precautions to ensure that animals survive a disaster:
- Microchip your pet and register the information with a national database.
- Keep an emergency evacuation kit for your pet that includes medications, vaccination records, food and water, and a pet collar with an ID tag.
- Have a transport and sheltering kennel/carrier on hand.
- Contact your local emergency management agency for a list of pet-friendly hotels or shelters that allow co-location with animals. Agencies in high-risk disaster zones may also provide pre-registration for residents who need transportation during an emergency evacuation