Preparing your community
The successful mitigation of any disaster requires action by many, including volunteer and full-time first responders; local, state, and federal government officials; academia; the medical community; and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Unfortunately, many people in non-animal/non-agricultural occupations or specialties may be unfamiliar with or unprepared to assist in disaster management activities involving animals. Knowledge of disaster planning, preparedness, response, and recovery is essential. An increasing number of both public and private agencies have begun training both community members as well as first responders in areas of animal disaster response. The first place to look for training would be your local, county or state response team, because these would be the agencies that you would work with if a true event occurred. Make acquaintances, assess resources and needs, and train with your community to respond before a disaster occurs. Counties also are encouraged to incorporate an animal disaster response plan into their overall emergency management plans, so trained individuals may be required to help with some of the responsibilities. Many states, including Mississippi, now have designated animal response teams that you could work and train with (https://www.mbah.ms.gov/emergency_programs/mart.htm). The Federal Emergency Management Agency offers 3 online animal disaster modules free of charge through their Independent Study Program (https://training.fema.gov/is/). The American Veterinary Medical Association also recently developed an animal disaster response credentialling program for veterinary professionals.
Successful disaster planning, preparedness, response, and recovery requires a coordinated community response. The better a community is prepared for a disaster, the less impact a disaster event will have.