Be Prepared: Animal Disaster Basics


Disasters are inevitable, and with around 2/3 of US households with at least one pet or animal, it only makes sense to make sure that they are part of any disaster response. The PETS Act, following Hurricane Katrina – which saw people refusing to evacuate because they can’t bring pets when they do – mandated that pets must be included in emergency management to be eligible for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reimbursement.

Jennifer Toussaint heads this session to walk us through the step-by-step of disaster management that integrates animals into the planning, response, and recovery. Jennifer is the Chief of Animal Control in Arlington County, Virginia at the Animal Welfare League of Arlington. She led the department to win the Outstanding Agency of the Year award from the Virginia Animal Control Association in 2020.

Specifics of her discussion include:

What the National Incident Management System is and what it provides.
What the Incident Command System (ICS) is, its framework, and command structure.
What a Localized Emergency Operation Plan (EOP) is and what it outlines.
Disasters: Its characteristics, assessing for its risk, the typical conditions surrounding it, and lessons learned from major disasters that severely impacted animals and households in the last 30 years.
A rundown of the phases of the disaster cycle.
What mitigation entails, examples of mitigation in emergency management for animals, and key resources for mitigation measures.
Steps to take in preparation for a disaster, and the different components to ensure preparedness when disaster strikes.
Activation and taking action during the disaster through response, the value of central messaging during this phase, and examples of response activities.
Guidelines on navigating the recovery process and examples of what transpires during recovery.
Establishing the Community Animal Response Team (CART) and its mission and purpose during response.
The different types of emergency animal shelters, their characteristics, benefits, and disadvantages.
Pointers to take into account when selecting a facility that looks into safety standards, accessibility, availability, and space.
Animal service agency’s emergency support functions (ESF) during disaster response, ensuring coordination with ESF leads, and integration into the community plan.
Factors to consider when creating a response plan including shelter locations, supplies and equipment, ESF integration, community information, and care and enrichment of animals.
The scope and limits of animals accepted in shelters and workarounds for those that are not included.
The similar outcomes for humans and animals during disasters, after-shocks of the disaster, and work that still need to be done following it.
The repercussions to residents, animals, first responders, and the community at large of not incorporating animals in disaster planning and emergency management.
Other issues and things to take into account during and after a disaster as hazardous materials decontamination, elevated costs of supplies due to sudden demand, loss of life, and COVID considerations.
Understanding the human-animal bond and how it impacts the outcomes of these disasters.
How animal welfare agencies can engage with emergency personnel to include animals in the planning, response, and recovery efforts.
Familiarizing with the emergency management hierarchy and ground rules when employing assistance from external agencies.
Tips to get started on planning for disaster preparedness and emergency management.