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.
As the Southeast continued to cope with flooding in the wake of Hurricane Isaac, ASPCA responders spent Labor Day weekend knee-deep in floodwater saving lives. Because of the efforts of ASPCA responders and others, hundreds of animals—dogs, cats, horses and even deer—are now safe.
In Mississippi, an ASPCA team worked to rescue stranded animals, including a young fawn in Harrison County who became trapped on a small piece of high ground after her mother swam to safety. Just as her patch of land was submerged, our responders arrived to take her to safety. She is now with the Wildlife Rehabilitation and Nature Preservation Society of Long Beach, Mississippi.
Meanwhile in Louisiana five teams—comprised of responders from the ASPCA, Louisiana State Animal Response Team, Texas State Animal Response Team and Calcasieu Parish—together handled search and rescue requests.
A team of responders assisted the coastally situated St. John Parish Animal Shelter in LaPlace, Louisiana, purchasing equipment to deep-clean the kennel after flooding robbed it of most of its space for dogs. St. John’s is getting back on its feet but has severely limited space. In response, the ASPCA transported nearly 70 dogs and cats from St. John’s.
To help local shelters find space to accept animals rescued from flooding, our Animal Relocation team also moved 80 adoptable cats and dogs from Plaquemines Parish and 20 from Jefferson Parish. In total, the ASPCA relocated 90 dogs and 84 cats to shelters with space to care for them: the generous Humane Society of North Texas, SPCA of Texas and the Atlanta Humane Society. (Thank you!)
Our work is not yet complete. If you’re seeking a way to help, you can make a gift to the ASPCA here. The ASPCA relies on the support of compassionate people like you to conduct rescues like this one and to assist animals facing other crises.
As you know, exactly seven years after Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Isaac is devastating Gulf Coast communities. Waist-high flooding has forced thousands to evacuate their homes, and as first responders work to rescue people stranded by the storm, the ASPCA is planning rescue operations for stranded and imperiled animals.
The ASPCA’s response to this crisis is only just beginning and is evolving by the minute, but we have taken the following measures:
Our top experts are working closely with the Louisiana State Animal Response Team to plan and execute rescue.
We’re deploying responders to conduct door-to-door rescue of animals in flooded or abandoned homes.
We’re assisting a Louisiana animal shelter facing flooding.
We are supplying boats and other equipment for critical water rescue missions.
We transported animals from a Mississippi shelter to make room for possible Isaac victims.
If you’re seeking a way to help, you can make a gift to the ASPCA here. The ASPCA relies on the support of compassionate people like you to conduct rescues like this one and to assist animals facing other crises.
In preparation for Hurricane Isaac, the ASPCA Field Investigations and Response (FIR) Team has kicked into high gear and headed to the Southeast, providing communities in need with transport, planning, grants and other assistance.
Today, at the request of the Humane Society of Southern Mississippi (HSSM) in Gulfport, we’re relocating animals from that shelter to the Broward County Humane Society in Florida.
“Having been through Hurricane Katrina and responding to numerous disasters, we learned that by assisting agencies with pre-evacuation efforts and getting animals out of harm’s way, we can greatly reduce the number of animals impacted by the hurricane,” says Dr. Dick Green, FIR Team Director of Disaster Response.
“The ASPCA is pleased to be in a position to assist the Humane Society of South Mississippi and be part of a collaborative effort to relocate these dogs and give them a second chance,” he adds.
Dr. Green and the FIR team are monitoring the situation closely and have organized sheltering and water rescue teams to support the local agencies as needed.
The ASPCA is also providing emergency grants in communities affected by Isaac, including to the Louisiana State Animal Rescue Team to increase its water rescue capacity.
In a happy coincidence, 89 dogs are making their way from Baton Rouge Animal Alliance in Louisiana to New York aboard a Sumter Disaster Animal Response Team vehicle, part of a scheduled transport arranged through the ASPCA Animal Relocation program. The dogs, mostly small-breed adults and large-breed puppies, will get a second chance at finding loving families at Pets Alive shelters in Westchester and Orange counties.
If you live in an area threatened by severe weather, the most important thing you can do for animals is ensure the safety of your own pets. For more information on how to keep yourself and your pet safe in an emergency, please read our complete list of Disaster Readiness tips.
Watch this blog for more updates on the ASPCA’s response to Isaac.