In this guest blog, ASPCA Director of Disaster Response Dick Green tells us what it’s like to be a disaster responder during National Preparedness Month. He also shares his tips for disaster preparedness.
September is National Preparedness Month, and it has certainly lived up to its name! September began just after Hurricane Isaac made landfall in Louisiana. Isaac not only “landed” seven years to the day after Hurricane Katrina but took a very similar path. Not nearly the size of Katrina, Isaac still wreaked havoc as a Category I storm that just sat and spun off the coast, bringing more than 20 inches of rain to New Orleans and causing extensive flooding in St. John and Plaquemines parishes.
The Louisiana State Animal Response Team (LSART) asked us to help prepare for the storm and be ready to assist with assessment and rescue. Working in conjunction with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, LSART and the ASPCA provided sheltering support, evacuation, and water and land rescue throughout the impacted areas.
Following Isaac, three members of the Field Investigations and Response Team presented at the National Animal Control Association’s Disaster Academy. My presentation, “Trends in Disasters,” showed that disasters are increasing worldwide and that, unfortunately, the U.S. is a hotbed—consistently number one or two each year in terms of frequency and impact.
Next, six ASPCA staffers delivered talks at the National Alliance of State Animal and Agricultural Emergency Programs Summit. I provided a cost analysis for emergency animal sheltering. The take-home message was that shelters that house both people and their pets are the only way to go. My team also conducted nearly 40 interviews throughout the country over the last couple of days, sharing these key tips:
1. Have a Plan. That plan needs to be more that just evacuating with your animals. We hope everyone will do that! Your “all-family” plan needs to include how you will transport your animals, possible routes you will take and your destination/sheltering options. Practice that plan at least yearly and share it with your family and friends.
2. Build a Kit. Don’t forget a photo of your pet, medical records, vaccination records, and any special food or prescriptions.
3. Stay Informed. Keep an eye on the weather, follow the projected storm path and don’t get caught unprepared. Staying informed also means knowing which shelters house both people and pets, monitoring possible road closures and having alternate travel plans.
4. Know your Neighbors. Now is a great time to have a block party. Develop a telephone tree and determine who is home when. If a disaster occurs when you are at work, your neighbor may be the only one able to reach your pets.
5. Vaccinate and Microchip your Pets. If you are ever required to shelter your pets, you will want them protected against disease. And the single most important piece of advice we can offer is to microchip your pets. It is truly their ticket home. And remember to update your contact information if it changes.