What would happen to your pet during a community emergency? Does your skin crawl at the thought of being forced to leave your furry family members behind during a disaster?
Thanks to her involvement in the National Veterinary Response Team, Dr. Elsa Swenson has a few ideas of what to do to prevent your whole family from being separated and to keep your pet—and the community’s other animals—safe in an emergency situation.
Dr. Swenson attended a weeklong training course in Anniston, Alabama, at the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness at Fort McClellan. The course included classroom instruction and hands-on training, and culminated with a simulated disaster scenario for the seven teams of emergency responders who were present.
The center at Fort McClellan is the only civilian “live agent” training center in the US; emergency response providers from all over the world have come to the center to be trained in dealing with mass casualties, live agents, and weapons in a real-time, monitored setting. The old army hospital has been repurposed into a training site for hospital workers using mannequins, animatronics whose clinical signs can be changed remotely by a trainer, simulated news casts, and live actors.
The center has mockups of a street, buildings, rooms, a subway, and outdoor sites, all of which can be used in simulations of various disaster situations by several different teams simultaneously responding to the same scenario.
The trainees did not know in advance what their assigned disaster would be. In this case, the disaster was an earthquake that was used to train hospital emergency response for mass casualty incidents, instructor training certification, healthcare leadership for mass casualty incidents, hazardous materials evidence collection, incident management, and disaster medical teams, including the National Veterinary Response Team.Rather than working directly with the animals who were present during the emergency simulation, Dr. Swenson and her fellow veterinary response team members worked together and with other emergency responders to evaluate the needs of the animal community—both family pets and shelter animals—and come up with a plan of action to keep everyone safe from harm.
“I really appreciated having the opportunity to go to the training,” said Dr. Swenson. “The experience will certainly help us work together more efficiently if a real disaster were to occur.”
She was one of 316 volunteers from across the country to attend the session. This was the first time the National Veterinary Response Team and the National Disaster Medicine Team received training together.