Getting Ready for an Emergency
by Brandon Mustful
In July of 2012, there was a very strong wind storm that affected most of the Bemidji area. I’m sure those of you who lived here at the time can remember it well. I was living right next to Diamond Point Park where dozens of trees fell over, permanently changing the nature of the park. Fortunately, the animal shelter was not affected much by that storm; other than losing a few shingles, but it did get us thinking about what we would do if there were an emergency that affected the building.
It has been a few years now since that storm, and we are finally making some progress on being prepared for an emergency. The first thing we did, back in 2013, was to purchase an electric generator to power our furnaces and air conditioning units if we were to lose power. Unfortunately, we didn’t think about the cost of getting a proper outlet to hook-up the generator. Therefore, it wasn’t until more than a year later that we were able to finally get an outlet to plug in the generator and provide power to the building.
Since then, we have been researching, meeting together, and creating a plan for emergency situations. Our Animal Welfare Committee has taken the lead on this process starting with the creation of an emergency evacuation plan. The plan is still in its draft stages, but is nearly finished. Some of the things involved in an evacuation plan include gathering a thorough knowledge of the building and grounds, designating responsibilities in the event of an emergency, finding adequate off-site relocation options, creating an emergency notification system, finding enough transportation resources, and maintaining sufficient supplies that are readily available.
One of our biggest challenges to this point is maintaining sufficient supplies that are readily available. It is incredible the amount of supplies we might need in the event of an emergency evacuation, especially if we have to plan for the possibility of 45 cats and 25 dogs! Right now, we are still assessing what we have, what we need, and where we can store it. One option that we have looked at that would benefit not only us, but the whole community, would be requesting an AKC (American Kennel Club) disaster relief trailer. They have an amazing program in which they provide fully stocked trailers to communities throughout the country. Here is a link to their pet disaster relief page: AKC Pet Disaster Relief. It is a true blessing to have programs like that offering aid to communities.
Throughout this process we have also been assessing other local resources and building partnerships. Thankfully, the Beltrami County Fairboard is working with us to create an agreement to allow us to use Fairground facilities in the event of an emergency that forces an evacuation of our shelter. We are very excited to have partners willing to offer their resources for the betterment of all. Additionally, I recently attended a MNSAART (Minnestoa State Animal and Agriculture Response Team) meeting in which we learned more about the process of responding to emergency situations, the importance of being prepared, and the importance of working together. These teams are dedicated to preparing, planning, responding and recovering during animal emergencies in the United States. Other groups within our state that play an important role in preparing, planning, responding and recovering to emergencies include the Minnesota Animal Disaster Coalition, and the Minnesota Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. As we work on our own plan, we are relying on these other groups for resources and advice.
The United States Government offers some pretty incredible resources as well to help us educate ourselves regarding emergencies of all kinds. I have been studying several of the course offered by FEMA on their Independent Study pages (FEMA). These courses are easy to do, and teach so much about how to be ready for any situation and respond accordingly. I have only done a few of the courses so far, but look forward to doing more. These courses not only help me in my role as Director of an animal shelter, but also personally. I encourage anyone to check out these courses and learn for themselves how we can all be better prepared for emergencies.
And that brings me to my final point. The thing that was stressed most at the MNSAART meeting I attended was the importance of personally being prepared. Do you know what you would do with your pets if an emergency affected your home? Do you have all the supplies you need to take care of your pets? Would someone be able to identify and return your pet to you if you were separated? We all need to be responsible for our own homes, families and pets. The more people that are prepared, the better the outcome if a disaster were to occur in our area. There are several easy steps we can all take to be better prepared. Below are some links to websites with great tips and resources:
Great River Rescue is committed to our animals. We know that if we truly care about these pets, we need to be responsible and be prepared for an emergency. Admittedly, we have not done this in the past, and we still have a long way to go to get properly prepared. However, we are working on our plan, and we encourage you to work on yours.
Thank you for reading our blog. Please call us at 751-7910 if you have questions about disaster preparedness, or you want to get involved in helping with our plan.