Disaster Preparedness for the Veterinary Community

September 8, 2016
VMD Staff

Anne McCann, national emergency programs coordinator at the United States Department of Agriculture, Animal Care, explains the veterinary community's role in caring for animals in case of a national disaster.

Anne McCann, national emergency programs coordinator at the United States Department of Agriculture, Animal Care, explains the veterinary community's role in caring for animals in case of a national disaster.

Interview Transcript (slightly modified for readability)

“[For] communities to be resilient, [they] really need the whole community to engage and be a part of the disaster response. The veterinary community plays a key role in ensuring that animals are taken care of in a disaster. It’s not just individual pet owners or animal owners taking care of their own animals and individual vet practices taking care of the practice, but it really is [the question of] how do we come together as animal responders and build a community response? How do we partner with emergency management in our communities to have a plan and to do the necessary preparation so that when the disaster happens, we’re all part of the team that comes together in a coordinated way to address the animal issues in the community?

Veterinarians and veterinary technicians play a key role in animal rescue, in animal sheltering, and in the medical care of animals that are affected by disasters. If a tornado happens, for example, there’s a lot of trauma that happens to the animals in the community. Individual veterinary practices may also be affected by that disaster and may not be operational, so what we’re really encouraging the veterinary community to do is, through their Veterinary Medical Association come together as a team [and] work with local emergency managers; if within their community there’s a veterinary medical response team or a veterinary medical response core, however it’s labeled, or if there’s a state or county animal response team, to join in with those efforts to provide a coordinated response to meet the community needs.

One of the key things after disaster is to do an assessment and figure out what the effects of the disaster are on the animal population in that community; veterinarians play a key role in doing that, and also in providing information about what [the effects are] on the veterinary infrastructure in the community. Is there veterinary capability after the disaster that can help individual clients with their animal needs, or do we have to bring in other veterinarians? If a building is standing but the people can’t come because they’re affected by the disaster, your workers can’t come, then are there partnerships in sharing that we can identify so that we can bring in relief vets or relief techs to help you continue to operate because your building is still standing? [This], versus your building isn’t standing and you can’t operate but you have staff that maybe are available and want to help. Doing all of the coordination ahead of time to bring the community together in planning for this helps to make, once the response happen[s], things go more smoothly. Planning happens in the middle of the disaster but it’s really abbreviated planning and it’s not as effective as if we all come together ahead of time. I know it’s really hard to take the time to do that, but if we can come together ahead of time, identify the structures in the community through local emergency management, where you can plug in and help to be part of the solution, [then] that’s really critical to community resiliency.”