EIIP Virtual Forum Presentation – April 7, 2004

Humane Society of the United States
Disaster Services Program

Anne Culver
Director, Disaster Services Program
Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)

Avagene Moore, CEM
Moderator, EIIP Coordinator

The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. A raw, unedited transcript is available from our archives. See our home page at http://www.emforum.org

[Welcome / Introduction]

Avagene Moore: Welcome to the EIIP Virtual Forum! Amy Sebring, my partner/associate, and I are delighted to see you in our audience today. Today's topic is "Humane Society of the United States - Disaster Services Program," a topic that has drawn more and more attention with each disaster in recent years.

Now, it is my pleasure to introduce our guest speaker for this session. As Director of Disaster Services at The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Anne Culver is in charge of emergency response during disasters as well as for developing The HSUS's nationwide disaster preparedness, training, and response programs. This includes developing, training, and leading volunteer and staff response teams; promoting and advising emergency managers at all levels of government in the inclusion of disaster planning for animals in disaster plans; and developing partnerships with private and public organizations for preparedness and response.

Most recently, Anne was the Incident Commander for the HSUS response to the 2003 wildfires in San Bernardino County CA, which included 25 members of the HSUS National Disaster Animal Response Team (DART) performing rescues behind the fire lines, emergency sheltering of evacuated animals, and care for injured animals.

Welcome, Anne! We appreciate you being here and look forward to your presentation. Anne, I now turn the floor over to you, please.


Anne Culver: Hello, I am very pleased to be part of the EIIP Virtual Forum today, because more than ever the issue of animals in disaster is touching a wide variety of professions and the public is clamoring for more information. Concerns range from "Where can I evacuate with my pets?" to "How vulnerable is our agriculture to terrorist attack?"

By now many emergency managers know that people often stay behind or go into dangerous situations because the love of their animals leads them to believe they have no other option. This puts not only the person and their animals at risk; it also leaves first responders and specialized rescue teams with some difficult choices about what type of assistance they can provide.

We have emergency managers from around the country at every level -- and in the public and private sector -- asking us for information on these issues. This is very gratifying – we used to bang on their doors saying, "Please pay attention to this issue!" Now, because of events all around the country, everyone seems to be willing to learn from past mistakes.

Since the terrorist attacks in this country in 2001, the general public has been awakened to the need for preparedness. Couple that with current concerns about bioterrorism, protecting the nation’s agriculture, and recent outbreaks of animal disease in this country, and you have a public concern – and a public need for reliable information – about the implications for animals of all kinds.

Interest is thus running very high for the HSUS’s biennial National Conference on Animals in Disaster, taking place in Philadelphia, PA, from May 12 to 15, 2004. Topics run from rescue, safe evacuations, and creative options for emergency sheltering of animals; to state-level planning for disasters, animal disease, and bioterrorism. Participation is broad, and professionals from some fields will be meeting those from other fields for the first time. The result is a greater understanding of the issues that affect animals and people, the community and the nation.

After looking at our conference program, Avagene pointed out a couple of issues that will be covered there, that may be new or of particular interest to this audience. The first area is animal disease, how to track it, why track it, how does it affect our agriculture and our food supply, and, yes, what implications are there for our own animals.

We know of course, that there has been a lot of concern lately about animal disease as well as problems in handling of animals and food in processing. Issues like mad cow disease and avian influenza are in the news today. And though it was only a couple of years ago, a foot and mouth disease outbreak in the United Kingdom and several other countries created what can only be called disaster conditions for thousands of people.

The public can be very reactive to news of unsafe food. Of course we come into this picture because – well, we are also consumers – but also because most people agree that the humane way of raising animals for food creates a safer food product. Some facilities are literally disasters waiting to happen, either in terms of animal disease and food safety, or in terms of environmental dangers. We in the animal protection community are working with USDA and with the state governments to help define the role of specific responders in disasters affecting animals.

Second is the issue of standards for animal disaster response resources – how they are set and what implications these standards might have in facilitating mutual aid and EMAC (Emergency Management Assistance Compact) for search and rescue, evacuation, transport, first aid and triage, and sheltering for animals.

Resource typing is the categorization and description of resources that are commonly exchanged in disasters, usually through Mutual Aid Agreements. Many disaster resources are being typed by functional groups in various disciplines. Resources should be organized into groupings of similar resources (kinds) and typed according to minimum standards to be easy to understand, clear for ordering and rapid to mobilize.

The Resource Typing project, subject of a recent EIIP Forum, described the general process. Various organizations have been selected to lead parts of the typing and The HSUS has been asked to identify a group of specialists to type the non medical aspects of animals and disasters, in support of FEMA and USDA/APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services). Resources to be typed include Animal Rescue Teams and equipment (that includes search also) and Emergency Sheltering Teams and equipment. Once typed, these standards will be used by state and local emergency managers, and the Departments of Agriculture, to request or to evaluate animal disaster teams who offer their services.

As we all know, in order to be most effective, disaster teams must be organized and included in the local or state disaster plan - before the disaster. Mutual Aid Agreements that include the terms and conditions for emergency response teams make the response more rapid and efficient. Both the resource typing definitions and the glossary of terms and the definitions are living documents and will continuously be updated and should compliment one another. Check this out at http://www.fema.gov/preparedness/mutual_aid.shtm.

This subject will be discussed at the NCAD session, "Standards for Mutual Aid in Animal Disaster Response," with Gil Jamieson, FEMA, Buddy Bell, NDMS/FEMA, and Rodney Taylor, Chair, Metro Wash Council of Governments (COG) Animal Services committee.

In this context, let me give a little bit of information about the HSUS program and the standards of training and response that we subscribe to at HSUS. HSUS Disaster Services has experienced disaster response teams and planners at headquarters and at ten strategically located Regional Offices. HSUS works on animal disaster plans with emergency management agencies, animal care & control officers, and rescue professionals to develop local capabilities. We are the only animal protection organization that’s a member of the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) and many state VOADs to promote disaster education, to participate in planning, and to coordinate response operations.

In the response phase, The HSUS is respectful of local leadership and mobilizes national resources to support, not replace, local response capability. We will cooperate with any organization that uses the Incident Command (or Management) System, works within "the system" and within their training, and behaves itself.

The HSUS National Disaster Assistance Response Team (National DART) is our premier volunteer corps, deployable nationwide by our HQ, consisting of about 30-40 members with technical rescue and professional animal-handling skills and experience. Each member is capable of managing rescue and sheltering elements in a disaster, as well as of managing other volunteers. HSUS Regional Offices maintain a roster of Regional DART volunteers as well as of locally organized DART teams that we can deploy in other areas.

The HSUS produces and sponsors extensive training for disaster responders and community leaders in disaster mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery, in addition to our biennial conference. Response training for HSUS volunteers and the public includes the entry-level Disaster Animal Response Team (DART) training, Emergency Animal Sheltering, Incident Command System, handling animals under stress (theirs and yours), volunteer and donation management, and dealing with the media, as well as technical rescue courses such as large animal rescue, swift water, rope, and ice rescue, and wildfire behavior.

We are always developing our training program to meet needs. As an example, one of our workshops at the NCAD 2004 in Philly is on how to include animal issues in your CERT training, with speakers who have organized this in their own areas. Also, we are just starting to develop training in animal handling and animal rescue for "human" rescue specialists, to allow people to merge all this technical rescue expertise with the ability to handle animals safely.

The HSUS staff and the HSUS National and Regional DART teams can provide the following services:

- Emergency search and rescue of animals (pets, horses, livestock, and wildlife);

- Assessment of animal-related needs from natural or other events;

- Retrieval, evaluation, and care for displaced, separated, or animals left behind;

- Establishment and management of emergency animal shelters;

- Relocation and support for disaster-affected animal facilities;

- EOC staff for animal-related issues, donation and volunteer management, VOAD liaison, and media issues.

HSUS response teams can be activated by government or by local organizations by contacting HSUS HQ (301-258-3063) or the appropriate Regional Office (see contact info at http://www.hsus.org/regions).

Another area that relates to mutual aid is the Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams (VMAT), which Avagene thought you might be interested in. These teams are part of the National Disaster Medical Systems (NDMS - http://www.ndms.dhhs.gov), which is a federally deployable resource under FEMA’s response division.

There are three VMATs currently active _ based in Massachusetts/Florida (depending on the time of year!), Maryland, and North Carolina, with a fourth one starting up in Michigan. Teams consist of 62 individuals, veterinarians, technicians and support personnel, available to support the veterinary function in an area affected by any kind of disaster. I am a member of the Maryland-based team, VMAT-2, as a logistics/communication specialist. You can learn more about the VMATs at this web site: http://www.avma.org/disaster/vmat/

As we approach hurricane season, the most urgent contingency planning for communities is to have sheltering alternatives for people with animals, focusing on companion animals and small farms. This is particularly important in evacuation planning. We have several important sessions at the disaster conference on evacuation and sheltering issues, as well as a workshop/exercise (http://www.hsus.org/ace/20337) because we think this is a critical issue.

The East Coast, particularly Florida and other hurricane-prone areas, has been the site of the largest evacuations in the history of the United States. (When Hurricane Floyd threatened those areas in 1999, an estimated 3 million people evacuated away from the coast.) However, in recent months there have also been large-scale and prolonged evacuations for wildfires in the West. These massive evacuations have shown the need to provide emergency sheltering not only for the human family members of evacuees, but also for their pets, horses, and livestock as well.

Why are sheltering options for people with companion animals needed? You can look at published studies, but it is easier to ask most animal lovers about leaving their pet behind in a dangerous situation and they will say, "Are you kidding? I will NOT be separated from my pal!"

Ideally, when an evacuation is ordered, the best option for anyone is to shelter with friends or family. Most people do this. However, in large-scale evacuations, family and friends may also be displaced. Some people stay in hotels or motels, and if those businesses allow pets, so much the better. It is not always easy to find a motel that allows animals and not everyone can afford the price of the lodging. Pets can be boarded in kennels, if you can find one with space out of the danger area, but the costs can be prohibitive also.

The current trend is for communities to provide temporary sheltering for animals in emergencies, where people and their animals are kept close together; this may be in the same room, the same building, or near enough for the owner to visit and take care of their own animal. The advantage of emergency shelters for animals is that both owners and animals are first of all, safe from the disaster, and during the evacuation period and in recovery, they are less stressed, feel more secure, and are better able to cope with the disaster.

So, we are asking members of all sorts of community groups to check to see if their community has plans for pet friendly sheltering as part of their disaster planning. So to this audience I say: guess who is going to be calling you?

We are encouraging animal control agency or humane society to encourage their local emergency management to develop emergency animal shelters. We also recommend to people that they work with the larger disaster response community, such as the local VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster; see www.nvoad.org), food banks (http://www.secondharvest.org), Salvation Army, etc., and, of course, their local Red Cross chapters.

For more information: The HSUS has material, training, and advice for anyone looking into setting up emergency animal shelters. In addition, the HSUS biennial National Conference on Animals in Disaster (NCAD) 2004 will be held in Philadelphia May 12-15 (http://www.hsus.org/disasterconference). This will be a great source of information on a variety of topics dealing with animals in both natural and manmade emergencies, including a daylong training on setting up emergency animal shelters. For more information go to http://www.hsus.org/disaster, or [email protected], or call 301-258-3063.

Avagene Moore: Thank you very much, Anne. Very good information! I am sure our audience has questions for you.

[Audience Questions & Answers]


James Hansberry: Thank you, Anne, for the presentation. I was wondering, in an emergency, what steps do you take to mobilize your teams to ensure that everybody is notified of their role?

Anne Culver: Hi, James - good question. There are several groups of people who need to know our role – our National DART responders, the emergency manager the affected area, and the citizens. Our teams are trained in ICS and understand their roles. We work year 'round with EM professionals, states, counties, etc., to explain what we can do and how we operate. We also try to make sure the public understands how to communicate their animal related needs through the local system.


Brian Smider: How do you notify team members of the need to activate?

Anne Culver: We have a call-down list and protocols for them that they know in advance.


Burt Wallrich: HSUS is a valuable part of Emergency Network Los Angeles, our local VOAD. That kind of collaboration increases everyone's effectiveness.

Anne Culver: Thanks, Burt. This is the kind of cooperation that we promote. Also, we have taken part in ENLA exercises, I believe.


Matthew Marmor: What are you seeing nationwide as far as animal survival kits for use during a disaster (pet food, pet carriers)?

Anne Culver: The best advice I can give is to send people to www.hsus.org/disaster - it has all the information.


Avagene Moore: Anne, are you seeing local communities do more extensive planning for animal issues?

Anne Culver: Yes, and it's very gratifying. People are coming to us because they have either had the problem or have seen another community with animal issues in an event. My dad always said to try to learn from other people's mistakes!


Lloyd Bokman: Do you plan to work with Colleges and Universities through there vet, agricultural, and natural resources programs to educate future professionals in these fields about the issues pertaining to animals in disasters?

Anne Culver: We have a lot of contacts at universities. At our conference also but more is needed to reach out to vet schools. There is only so much time. We do have a Rural Area Vet Service (RAVS) that takes vet students out to do spay-neuter - they get exposed to it but more is needed.


Amy Sebring: Are you conducting outreach through the state and local health department infrastructure? Do you have access to Health Alert Network for example?

In our support for state planning, we try to engage all involved departments. Health Alert Network sounds familiar but we don't work with them explicitly - good idea - have a web link?

Amy Sebring: (Thanks, will follow up offline.)


Anne Culver: Ollie has more information on resource typing - a very interesting project and much needed. This relates to standards for responders - you have to know what you are asking for and getting in a mutual aid/EMAC context. Ollie is our Senior Disaster Advisor here at HSUS.

Ollie Davidson: We identified disaster experienced individuals with skills in each functional area who are from the entire spectrum of organizations, government and nongovernmental organizations. The project allows the flexibility to ask others with more technical skills to review draft work products. Initially identified are: State and local government planners, rescue team members, and experienced emergency sheltering staff.

Carrie Wetzel: I am working with Ollie and Anne in support of the Resource Typing effort. If anyone would like to be included in the group for review of documents, please let us know. Thanks.


Avagene Moore: Anne, are there good case studies out there somewhere that would emphasize the problems with abandoned animals and the disposal of those who are killed in disasters? If so, where?

Anne Culver: Well, the usual answer is that we are too busy to do case studies! There are plenty of experiences - North Carolina has done some evaluation of disposal methods. This is a bigger problem that people know - it does not usually get thought of.


Amy Sebring: I am interested in the exercise that you mentioned. Is that a scenario for a table top that folks can use? Will it you make it available online afterwards perhaps and the other conference proceedings?

Anne Culver: The emergency animal sheltering exercise is a full field simulation, with animals. Proceedings will be available on a CD afterward by request.


Ray Pena: Are you working with ARC on co-sheltering people and pets? Isn't there a public health concern?

Anne Culver: We work with ARC at its HQ level and also encouraging chapters. Yes, they do not allow animals in their shelters. We like to collaborate with them in cross-training, etc. Our training specifically addresses the public health concerns for people and animals. On sheltering, there are lots of people working together - a session at our conference.


Amy Sebring: Speaking of exercises, I saw that TOPOFF 3 was just announced for a year from now. Any plans for HSUS to participate?

Anne Culver: I missed the announcement - depending on the scenario it could be very useful. Planning for people isn't really effective unless you include animals.


Avagene Moore: Do you work with hotel / motel chains to grant some leniency re: pets when people are evacuated?

Anne Culver: Yes, we have worked with them. Many of them have said they will accept pets during a disaster even if their normal policy says no. Bring a crate and tell Fluffy to be a good guest. Also, our public education tells people to check in advance and bring appropriate supplies.


Ray Pena: Our local Humane Society (Dane County WI) is something of a dud on emergency preparedness. What is HSUS doing to encourage their involvement?

Anne Culver: Most humane societies are overwhelmed with normal operations. We can send you information to help get started; also, our Midwest regional office in Des Moines can help you. Ray, email me [email protected] and I will give you contacts and information - free!


Amy Sebring: I just wanted to remind folks that EMI's Virtual Campus has a self-study course on Animals in Disaster. See http://training.fema.gov/EMIWeb/IS/crslist.asp.

Anne Culver: We actually have three Independent Study courses!


Isabel McCurdy: Anne, evacuations during hurricane season is a common practice in USA, what animal aspects need to be improved on? What are lessons learned?

Anne Culver: Lessons learned for evacuations: if you have no provisions for people's pets, there is a LARGE chance they will not evacuate, especially if you tell them to "leave them at home with three days food and water" - that is a killer! Public messages must say "if you evacuate, take them with you." Georgia and FL and some others have done a good job on evacuation planning - teaching pet sheltering all over the state. Parts of VA, and NC did a good job in Hurricane Isabel.


Amy Sebring: Anne, are you seeing more planning occurring for large-scale natural events in animal issues. I am wondering if we are really prepared for emerging diseases, e.g.

Anne Culver: Well, large scale always ends up being local - which is appropriate. The states must take the lead in making it an issue of importance for the local jurisdictions and give them a framework so they can get the volunteer centers, job descriptions, shelter locations, etc. "where the rubber meets the road."

I would like to know from the "reading" audience - does your community have any plans for animals?

Molly Johnson: Pima County, Arizona has some plans in place, but more is needed. I am with the Health Department.


Isabel McCurdy: Anne, disasters have no borders, is there a counter partner in Canada that you work with?

Anne Culver: We do get inquiries from a lot of Canadians (in fact I think some may be coming to the NCAD conference.) Staff in our border states, particularly in the Rockies area, seem not to know that there is a dotted line there. Planning seems to be the same (with local variations) so we send them our planning materials - available on our web site – also, whatever help we can give one-on-one.


Molly Johnson: I'd ask the same question re: Mexico.

Anne Culver: Part of HSUS is Humane Society International. HSI has annual meetings with people from other countries and we in Disaster Services work with them all on disaster planning.


Avagene Moore: That's all we have time for today. We greatly appreciate your efforts and time on our behalf today, Anne. Thank you! And we wish you great success with your upcoming conference.

Anne Culver: Thanks, Avagene. Anyone wanting information, please contact us. This is what we are here for. Thanks all.

Avagene Moore: Please stand by a moment while we make some quick announcements.

If you are not currently on our mailing list, and would like to get program announcements and notices of transcript availability, please see the Subscribe link on our home page.

We have one new Partner to announce this week: Visual Incident Planning / Visual Imagry, Inc. http://www.viplanning.com; the Point of Contact to the EIIP is Dee Beaugez, President.

If your organization is interested in becoming an EIIP Partner, please see the Partnership link on our home page.

Thanks to everyone for participating today. We appreciate you, the audience!

Our session is adjourned. Before you go, please help me show our appreciation to Anne for a fine job.