Pulse - April 2021 - 22
The California Veterinary Medical Reserve Corps (CAVMRC)
Joseph G. Herman, BS, RVT
n 2020, California saw the worst fire season in the
state's recorded history. An estimated 4 million acres
burned across California, putting the lives of countless
pets in harm's way.
When natural disasters of this magnitude, including earthquakes
and floods, threaten to overwhelm local or regional veterinary
resources, the state government can call on and deploy the California Veterinary Medical Reserve Corps, a program of the CVMA.
The mission of the CAVMRC is to " preserve animal well-being
and protect the public health and welfare by providing emergency
veterinary medical care and expertise during the response phase of
declared states of emergency. " Deployment involves caring for animals in disaster shelters, and requires that the Corps be invited in.
The CAVMRC exceeds 2,500 volunteers-consisting of veterinarians, RVTs, veterinary assistants, and veterinary students-making it the largest veterinary medical reserve corps in the country.
When a disaster hits and a state of emergency is proclaimed, volunteers are contacted to determine their readiness and willingness to
deploy.The only preconditions to deployment are that the CAVMRC
member has completed required " Incident Command System " (ICS)
training courses, offered online at no charge by FEMA, and has preregistered with the State of California Disaster Healthcare Volunteers,
a system used to communicate with emergency responders.
Learning from History
Amy Sturlini, RVT, is a Veterinary Behavior Technician at
VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital. She has served on the
CAVMRC Steering Committee for six years, and is CAVMRC's
Major Urban Coordinator for Los Angeles.
Sturlini became interested in Disaster Medicine & Preparedness following Hurricane Katrina, and later the Joplin tornado, when a veterinarian presented a lecture on the veterinary community's response
to those tragedies. " A lot came out regarding what was done right and
what was done wrong, " said Sturlini, " and I started attending more
lectures and becoming involved in community response. "
Due to the ferocity of last year's fires, the CAVMRC was asked
to deploy in Northern California. But, as involved as the Corps
was, the response might have been even more dramatic had it
not been for the preparedness of animal care facilities and personnel throughout the state. " The most important step in disaster
response, " said Sturlini, " is to be prepared yourself. Having an evacuation plan for you and your pets. Knowing where you're going
to take them if you have to leave your home. Next, " continued
Sturlini, " is helping your hospital to be prepared, and then your
community. And then finding local response groups to work with. "
As explained by Sturlini, hospital preparation should include a
" phone tree " to facilitate communication among staff during an
emergency. " A phone tree is having someone at the top who calls
the next person in line, " said Sturlini. " And that person calls the
" We've actually had a couple of false
alarms where we had to evacuate. The
emergency responders, " said Sturlini,
" were very impressed with how quickly
our staff was able to take clients and pets
out of the hospital safely. "
next in line, and it disseminates out from there, " so one person is
not trying to reach everybody.
Hospital preparation also includes evacuation and fire drills,
so that staff knows where to meet up in the event of a disaster.
" We've actually had a couple of false alarms where we had to
evacuate. The emergency responders, " said Sturlini, " were very
impressed with how quickly our staff was able to take clients and
pets out of the hospital safely. "
Baptized Under Fire
CAVMRC's largest deployment was during the Camp Fire in
2018, which was the most destructive wildfire in California history, covering 240 sq mi in the northern portion of the state. All
told, 300-plus volunteers cared for some 2,700 animals in nine
temporary animal shelters.
The species being cared for encompassed the spectrum of companion animals, which in itself could present a daunting challenge.
But as I learned at a CAVMRC training session I once attended,
don't be concerned that you don't know everything there is to
know about every type of animal. Just remember that we, as RVTs,
know more than the people who don't have our background.
Also, as explained by Sturlini, " As prepared as you try to be
when working a disaster, you can never be 100% prepared for the
emotional toll that it takes after awhile. " According to reports of
the Camp Fire response, when the pain of seeing injured animals
became overwhelming, the volunteers visited with the healthy,
found animals to lift their spirits.
Aside from patient care experience, having RVTs on the front
lines of a disaster response has other advantages. " It's our ability to
be calm under pressure, " said Sturlini, " and our ability to multitask.
I think the circumstances encountered during a disaster aren't that
much different than some of our normal working conditions...
maybe just accentuated. Most animal hospitals are short-staffed, "
continued Sturlini, " and we're somewhat used to working under
hard conditions. But I think that has made us very adaptable, and
has prepared us for whatever a disaster will throw at us. We've all
been baptized under fire. " P
CAVMRC membership is free and open to qualified veterinary professionals
regardless of whether they are a CVMA member.Visit cavmrc.net.
Pulse - April 2021
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Pulse - April 2021
Pulse - April 2021
Chapter Meetings & Calendar
Optimizing Veterinary Practice Staff Increases Efficiency and Retains Clients
UC Davis Update
Tools for Success
Digital Photography for Veterinarians
From the SCVMA Office
Pulse - April 2021 - Pulse - April 2021
Pulse - April 2021 - Cover2
Pulse - April 2021 - 1
Pulse - April 2021 - 2
Pulse - April 2021 - Chapter Meetings & Calendar
Pulse - April 2021 - President’s Perspective
Pulse - April 2021 - SCVMA Profile
Pulse - April 2021 - 6
Pulse - April 2021 - Pulsepoints
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Pulse - April 2021 - 9
Pulse - April 2021 - 10
Pulse - April 2021 - Practical Pathology
Pulse - April 2021 - Optimizing Veterinary Practice Staff Increases Efficiency and Retains Clients
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Pulse - April 2021 - 15
Pulse - April 2021 - Medical Leeway
Pulse - April 2021 - 17
Pulse - April 2021 - UC Davis Update
Pulse - April 2021 - Tools for Success
Pulse - April 2021 - Angel Fund
Pulse - April 2021 - Dear Tabby
Pulse - April 2021 - The RVT
Pulse - April 2021 - Industry Insights
Pulse - April 2021 - Quick Reference
Pulse - April 2021 - Digital Photography for Veterinarians
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Pulse - April 2021 - AVMA Diplomates
Pulse - April 2021 - Resources
Pulse - April 2021 - Disease Table
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Pulse - April 2021 - From the SCVMA Office
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