So I went to the local animals in disaster meeting and surprisingly, it turned out to be something of a bait and switch. Though the person from the Emergency Services dept. and the veterinarian did present a short slide show, mostly what they wanted was to get interested people in the room and get their contact information. You see, there currently is no plan, and they want to develop one, and they want those of us who turned out to be the development committee. That is actually pretty funny, as I have twice volunteered to serve on the animal issues advisory council and twice was rejected. But this is another group, and they seem open to working with people.
Animals in disasters is a particularly thorny issue for us here on the Olympic Peninsula, as any major disaster such as earthquake or wildfire is likely to cut off our one highway access on and off the Peninsula. An earthquake could also potentially take out our shipping docks and our airport. So we would likely be well and truly on our own for some time. So almost all resources for housing and feeding people and their animals will have to be local for several days at least. And the fact that we are semi-rural, and have many large animals as well as dogs and cats to consider -- plus a game farm and raptor center -- complicates matters further.
It was heartening to hear that the local hospital already has a plan for the workers who will be doubtless called in to work many overtime hours in the event of disaster to bring their companion animals with them to a prearranged area of the hospital. That was surprisingly forward looking of them.
But we all probably remember Katrina and people refusing to evacuate because they couldn't take their animals, or the dog Snowball being ripped from her young owner's arms.
So I'm happy to take part in trying to formulate a plan. I've already take the USDA course on animals in disaster, and made several suggestions at the meeting last week. But with the many complications involved, and the painstakingly slow pace of anything to do with regulation, I wonder if we will actually derive a workable plan before some disaster befalls the area. At least they are trying. And they do have some good programs already available, such as "map your community," where you and your neighbors get together, a facilitator comes to help, and everyone details what animals they have that will need rescuing, or health problems that require electricity in the event of a blackout, phone numbers where people work, etc., to try and be a little pocket of self-sufficiency. And of course everyone is urged to have a disaster kit prepared and ready to grab.
So it was a worthwhile thing, though not what I thought going in.
Is your area prepared to account for animals in the event of a disaster?