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Emergency Response

Another round of blogging is here and Spring Break has just ended.  Since I didn't go home and work, I am sitting here trying to figure out what to write about.  After a few minutes of thinking, I've decided to write about something I'm interested in, and its implications in veterinary medicine.

I have always been interested in helping both people and animals.  This past fall, I took an elective course on Emergency Response and Disaster Management, and I learned about the integral part a veterinarian can play in disaster planning.  I was so intrigued by this topic, I decided to resume my Master's program (yes, I am crazy being dual-enrolled in vet school) and finish my studies learning about disaster prevention and management.  Right now, I am taking a break from writing my paper on this topic to write this blog.

Veterinarians are instrumental in the development of emergency planning.  Certain aspects need to be addressed before disasters occur - from animal transport to coordination of veterinary services to evaluation of resources and supplies.  This reality was brought to light by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and legislation addressing these new concerns was created beginning in 2006 with the PETS (Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards) Act.  In Texas, this act was bolstered by the signing of "Simba's Law", or House Bill 88, in 2007.  These laws enable pet owners to evacuate and find shelter for their animals in times of disasters.

Planning for disasters is difficult.  You have to think about all of the different types of natural and man-made disasters and form a set of plans that can be adapted to all of them.  This is what your city and state officials do for you on a routine basis.  Food and water safety, shelter, sanitation, evacuation, medical aid, etc must be taken into account when responding to a disaster.  Hopefully, the "response" phase will never be necessary.  This is when all the planning is put into action - lives are saved, damage is minimized, and assessment / rebuilding begins.  Veterinarians help these efforts by treating animals, evaluating the safety of food and water supplies, preventing disease, and performing many other functions as needed.  In the post-response phase, the town rebuilds, the disaster plans are re-evaluated, and amendments are made where necessary.

As individuals, we all have the ability to participate in emergency planning and response efforts.  The best way to do this is to prepare ourselves and our families for emergencies.  This includes creating first aid kits and pre-packaged supplies for not only the humans in the family, but also the animals.  This includes having your contact information and evacuation plans in place before disaster strikes.  And this includes staying calm and following through with your plans in the face of disaster.  By assuming some responsibility and preparing yourself, you are helping your local community.

For guides to preparing your pets for an emergency, talk with your local veterinarian and visit petsamerica.org or http://www.fema.gov/txt/hazard/hurricane/pets.txt for more information.