Georgia County Government - May/June 2008 - (Page 57)

ExtensionNews Animals Take Spotlight in Disaster Planning By Stephanie Schupska University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences I f a mandatory evacuation was called for in your county, would you be ready? Is there a plan in place for people? Odds are county officials are quite well aware of this plan. They were probably even instrumental in designing, or at least approving, most of it. But what about the evacuation plan for pets? Odds are the answer to this question is not quite as well defined. Learning to handle 1,000 abandoned animals was good practice for Don Hamilton and others from the University of Georgia. After Hurricane Katrina, they worked in Mississippi for 10 days running an animal shelter that took care of, in total, about 3,000 animals. The experience prepared them to develop the “Handling Animals During Disasters” planning workshops, which they are now taking to counties around Georgia. But that wasn’t the only lesson they learned. “If you don’t have a place to shelter animals in disaster, people aren’t going to evacuate,” said Hamilton, homeland security coordinator for the University of Georgia’s (UGA) College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES). He wasn’t the only one who learned valuable lessons about the critical need for having a response plan for companion animals during and following a disaster. State and county officials also picked up on the importance of a companion animal plan through hurricanes Hugo and Andrew. “After evacuation and disaster, there’s a tremendous problem with abandoned animals – dogs, cats, birds and livestock,” said Jeff Doles, director of Peach County’s Emergency Management Agency. “Before you can re-inhabit an area or allow citizens to return, you have to control the animal population. Now the encouragement is to take your animals with you so they don’t have to take care of themselves. When disasters strike, companion animals can be victims, or even worse, prevent people from taking the best course of action. Doles, who works full time as Peach County’s fire chief, puts on his county EMA director’s hat only part time. In February, he pulled it on tightly. He worked with Peach County Cooperative Extension Coordinator Frank Funderburk and others from the Fort Valley area as they tested their on-paper plan for handling animals in a disaster situation. The two mock disasters “taught us to adapt,” Doles said. “We had some problems that we identified in our exercises, but we had a lot of strengths. I think it’s some of best training done in a while.” The last disaster that stands out in his mind was the Flood of 1994, as it’s remembered by those in South Georgia who were affected by an overabundance of rain flowing down from north Georgia that summer. “We had one way in and out of Peach County,” Doles said. “We could barely get to Byron” also located in Peach County. The only way out was the highway to Columbus. Interstate 75 was closed at both county lines. The usual 20-minute trip to Macon took 4.5 hours. “There were serious concerns about food and water,” he said, “but we were able to reroute a lot of that stuff. Animals never crossed our minds.” The only animals on anybody’s radar were livestock, and that only registered for farmers. Doles praised them for their planning. “Very few farms are going to call their local EMA director and say they need food,” he said. “Most are self-sufficient. They’ve made plans, contingencies. They paddle their own boats, and EXTENSION continued on page 58 Jeff Doles, Peach County Emergency Management Agency director, discusses emergency preparations at a Handling Animals During Disasters workshop. MAY/JUNE 2008 57

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Georgia County Government - May/June 2008

Georgia County Government - May/June 2008
President’s Message
County Matters
ACCG 2008 Annual Meeting: Highlights
County Focus: Clayton County
Negotiating a Professional Service Firm Contract: Part 3
Counties Get Involved in Efforts to End Sexual Abuse of Children
Smart Growth Scorecard Gives Communities a Way to Grade New Developments
Wireless Technologies Critical for First Responders
Research Corner: The ACCG Policy Process
RDCs Assist the USS Georgia Flag Project
Extension News: Animals Take Spotlight in Disaster Planning
Georgia’s Grand Old Courthouses: Grady County
NACo News: Green Initiative Launches Searchable Database
Insurance News: ACCG Announces New Inmate Medical Savings Program
County Parade
Index of Advertisers

Georgia County Government - May/June 2008