Be Prepared: Animal Disaster Basics

Be Prepared: Animal Disaster Basics
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1Module 1
Recorded on: 2022-08-30
Unit 1Presentation Materials: Be Prepared: Animal Disaster Basics
Unit 2Transcript: Be Prepared: Animal Disaster Basics
Unit 3Workbook: Be Prepared: Animal Disaster Basics
Unit 4Recording: Be Prepared Animal Disaster Basics

Disasters are inevitable, and with around 2/3 of US households with at least one pet or animal, it only makes sense to make sure that they are part of any disaster response. The PETS Act, following Hurricane Katrina – which saw people refusing to evacuate because they can’t bring pets when they do – mandated that pets must be included in emergency management to be eligible for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reimbursement.

Jennifer Toussaint heads this session to walk us through the step-by-step of disaster management that integrates animals into the planning, response, and recovery. Jennifer is the Chief of Animal Control in Arlington County, Virginia at the Animal Welfare League of Arlington. She led the department to win the Outstanding Agency of the Year award from the Virginia Animal Control Association in 2020.

Specifics of her discussion include:

  • What the National Incident Management System is and what it provides.
  • What the Incident Command System (ICS) is, its framework, and command structure.
  • What a Localized Emergency Operation Plan (EOP) is and what it outlines.
  • Disasters: Its characteristics, assessing for its risk, the typical conditions surrounding it, and lessons learned from major disasters that severely impacted animals and households in the last 30 years.
  • A rundown of the phases of the disaster cycle.
    • What mitigation entails, examples of mitigation in emergency management for animals, and key resources for mitigation measures.
    • Steps to take in preparation for a disaster, and the different components to ensure preparedness when disaster strikes.
    • Activation and taking action during the disaster through response, the value of central messaging during this phase, and examples of response activities.
    • Guidelines on navigating the recovery process and examples of what transpires during recovery.
  • Establishing the Community Animal Response Team (CART) and its mission and purpose during response.
  • The different types of emergency animal shelters, their characteristics, benefits, and disadvantages.
  • Pointers to take into account when selecting a facility that looks into safety standards, accessibility, availability, and space.
  • Animal service agency’s emergency support functions (ESF) during disaster response, ensuring coordination with ESF leads, and integration into the community plan.
  • Factors to consider when creating a response plan including shelter locations, supplies and equipment, ESF integration, community information, and care and enrichment of animals.
  • The scope and limits of animals accepted in shelters and workarounds for those that are not included.
  • The similar outcomes for humans and animals during disasters, after-shocks of the disaster, and work that still need to be done following it.
  • The repercussions to residents, animals, first responders, and the community at large of not incorporating animals in disaster planning and emergency management.
  • Other issues and things to take into account during and after a disaster as hazardous materials decontamination, elevated costs of supplies due to sudden demand, loss of life, and COVID considerations.
  • Understanding the human-animal bond and how it impacts the outcomes of these disasters.
  • How animal welfare agencies can engage with emergency personnel to include animals in the planning, response, and recovery efforts.
  • Familiarizing with the emergency management hierarchy and ground rules when employing assistance from external agencies.
  • Tips to get started on planning for disaster preparedness and emergency management.

Points clarified during the Q&A are about

  • Handling wildlife evacuation through a community of wildlife rehabilitators.
  • A 4-step guide to get started on your community’s emergency disaster response plan.
  • Assessing the potential likelihood/risk of specific disasters.
  • Supplies and gear the pet shelter trailer must be equipped with and doing an inventory of which.
  • Reviewing and updating an old emergency/disaster management plan.
  • Funding to get emergency pet shelter trailers and other emergency shelter options.
  • A database of Virginia landowners that can receive evacuated animals.


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Resources and Handouts


Audience Comments

  • “This was an excellent overview for those new to the process and a good review for those of us who have been doing this for a while.” — Susan
  • “I am trained in disaster preparedness and shelter management through both AmeriCorps and my work, but sheltering and caring for animals was not part of the trainings. This whole presentation was an eye opener and extremely helpful! Thank you for such comprehensive and important webinar trainings!” — Teresa
  • “Ms. Toussaint provided lots of great information and wonderful ideas on getting started.” — ACO Jay
  • “I learned some new info on hierarchy and the set up for Emergency Management systems.” — Katie
  • “This whole webinar was very interesting.” — Kim





The National Animal Care & Control Association (NACA) was formed in 1978 for the express purpose of assisting its members to perform their duties in a professional manner. We believe only carefully selected and properly trained animal control personnel can correct community problems resulting from irresponsible animal ownership. NACA’s purpose is to preserve the Human/Animal Bond by insisting on responsible animal ownership.





This webinar has been pre-approved by the Maine Animal Welfare Program for 1 Continuing Education Unit for the State of Maine’s ACO annual training. You can find more information about Certification, required annual training or submitting materials for credit at Maine’s Animal Control Officer Resource Page.




Additional Resources
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