Webinar presenter Diane Robinson answered a number of your questions after her presentation, A Look at Hurricane Dorian: Were We Ready? Lessons about Planning, Preparedness and Future Response. Here are just a few of her responses.
Audience Question: What is the difference between an MAA and an MOU?
Diane Robinson: So, an MAA is a mutual aid agreement, and an MOU is a memorandum of understanding. Probably, the simplest is, is how they’re used often is the MAA means, I’m defining what I’m going to do for you, and you’re defining what you’re going to do for me. Where an MOU is, simply is our agreement on what you’re going to do for me. So, if I’m in an impact area, and in a shelter that needs to evacuate animals, I’m going to be sending shelter and you’re going to be our receiving shelter, and we’re going to have what that agreement looks like for that relationship. They’re great to have pre-disaster. It doesn’t require on either of those agreements, don’t require that you are going to request an agency to come in or that agency is going to be able to come in. But it does get a lot of the legal conversation out of the way that you don’t want to be dealing with when you’re in the middle of a disaster.
Audience Question: It seems like COVID has changed so many things, so what are some of the changes we should be looking for or considering as we start to enter disaster season?
Diane Robinson: Yeah, it has. It’s changed a lot, and the conversations are really looking at the way we’ve typically done business. I know that talking to some folks from the Red Cross, they are looking at how they’re setting up their shelters that instead of having the cot so close together, that they’re spreading them out. The spacing is going to be the big issue there. But the other thing we’re starting to talk about, instead of doing the co-located shelters, where you have people, an animal shelter, near each other, that, you know, are you potentially running an emergency shelter that doesn’t allow owners to come into it. And sometimes, it’s kind of a safe visitation process to be able to keep those animals and their owners connected with each other, but it may not be having all of those people come into the shelter, or there are other options to do hotels. Can people take their animals to the hotel? And is, is that something where we’re resourcing those capabilities with the hotel’s versus setting up exterior shelters but it’s a conversation we’re having right now.
Audience Question: If we don’t have a disaster plan for our agency or community, where should we start? What are the first few things we should consider?
Diane Robinson: I guess, whether that’s for animals, I would say first, get with your emergency management. So, hopefully, that’s not an emergency manager asking the question about an animal shelter. But first, get with the emergency managers. Those are the guy, the folks that are going to be responsible for the disaster response piece of it. And you want to make sure, if this is an animal plan, you’re looking at building, that you’re collaborating with emergency management and working within that system for the animal issues as well. And then, there’s a lot of resources online that you can get to, I should have had all of those resource links for you. Sorry. There is a group and the national folks, that animal rescue folk that are putting together white papers with some best practices, FEMA, obviously, the first is FEMA courses. So, looking and understanding anything with disaster planning and an ICS Disaster response through those. And then all the national organizations I think, also have links to developing a disaster plan. So, you can find stuff on our HSUS website or ASPCA Pro, NARSC those are all resources for you for the animal side of things.
Audience Question: This kind of tags onto what you were just talking about, Diane, there are organizations like the American Red Cross who provides shelters for people and how does it work for animals? Should we as animal control agencies at the local level be working to try to coordinate with these organizations? Or how does that work when you’ve got a national organization like American Red Cross who does the sheltering. But a lot of times these animal control organizations are either city or smaller organizations and they work more at a local level, how does that work?
Diane Robinson: There are similar organizations for the animals as well. So those national organizations like the Humane Society of the United States or ASPCA, American Humane, and NACA. There’s a whole group of us that work on the sheltering of animals and so, if your animal control, then, getting we’re in with the National Animal Control Association, who is also involved with the National Animal Rescue and Sheltering Coalition. And so, there are folks out there that do the same, so I would encourage you to get with them and get the training, learn how to do the emergency sheltering, and as much as you’re able to do it yourself obviously, but have those relationships available for when you have exhausted your local capabilities and need more advanced help.
Audience Question: Following on to what we were just talking about. As we help our community residents understand disaster preparedness because we seem to be having to do a lot of public education lately, what’s the one consistent mistake citizens with pets that they can maybe we can start educating them now in preparation for disaster.
Diane Robinson: If you’re an animal welfare agency, I mean, I, especially if you’re in an area that’s likely like a high hit disaster area. Can you start putting together a to-go kit for them? Or information on what they need in a to-go kit and what they need to be prepared to evacuate their animals. And, you know, all the things that we’re constantly saying if it’s not safe for you, it’s not safe for your animal, so, have a plan to be able to take them with you if you need to evacuate. Education is huge and it’s constantly, it’s not just lately, it’s always having to educate people and educate them to go. If you’re advised by your community by emergency managers to leave, leave. There’s a reason they’re advising you to do that and too many people just, you know, kind of blow it off and don’t want to do it and don’t understand, you know, what that impact is going to be in and understanding that you know, even a category one storm can be devastating.
Audience Question: Diane, you’ve seen the ways that a lot of agencies have prepared for and managed during a disaster. Looking back, what are some of the biggest mistakes agencies make? And what should we be particularly thinking about now, especially knowing that we really are moving towards disasters?
Diane Robinson: The biggest mistake is just not having a plan and not being prepared. Not being part of the system. And I’ll speak just for animal welfare, but I’m sure the diverse group of people on this will probably experience it in their field as well. But not everybody plays well in the sandbox and it’s a real problem when you’re in disaster because you need to be able to depend on each other. So, you know, if people could figure out that we’re all on the same side, and in animal welfare, we’re trying to save animals and we need to be able to work together to try and do that.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of A Look at Hurricane Dorian: Were We Ready? Lessons about Planning, Preparedness and Future Response.