Shelters play a key role in identifying and providing resources to pet owners during natural disasters. To be most effective, make sure you understand your state’s response structure – and the reporting structure for assistance and resources.
Are You Ready?
If you are a sheltering agency, develop a written disaster plan to identify operating protocol for disasters. Review and update it yearly, and share your plan with staff and volunteers to ensure their safety as well as the safety of animals in your care. Provide your staff and volunteers information that will help them develop a personal preparedness plan for their own family members and pets.
If your shelter is not rated to withstand high winds or is located in a storm surge area or a flood plain, develop an evacuation plan. Will staff be on site during an event, and have you addressed safety issues, evacuation and emergency communications? If your facility is not safe for people, it may not be a safe place for animals left unattended. Work with groups and shelters outside your community to develop mutual agreements, recognizing how you can assist each other in the event of emergency. Arrange to transport your adoptable dogs and cats to shelters outside the area, so that you can free up space for housing pets lost during and after a storm.
Identify the Most at Risk
Connect with local social service agencies to identify pet owners who will most likely need assistance. Build your volunteer foster network to include safe places for the pets of owners who may need your help – the elderly and disabled, for example. Medical shelters do not permit pets, and pet-friendly shelters may not have enough space, or may have specific rules.
Check with your local EMS for training opportunities and click here for a comprehensive resource on everything related to disaster preparedness/response and state and national training resources.
Consider making this tip sheet available as a handout to your clients, and post it in your waiting room or other high-traffic areas.