When the worst happens

Pet Safe Coalition is holding a training session in Quesnel May 30-31

Fire! Evacuate! Lightning strikes have turned the country side into an inferno and changing winds are pushing the flames towards the city. Ranchers scramble to gather and move animals but some are out on the range, right in the fire’s path. Homeowners frantically gather valuables and head for relatives in the safety zone. But not every valuable is collected. Furball, fearful of the noisy water bombers, hides under the barn and ignores all of the desperate calls to come. Down the road, a macaw called Squawk and a llama named Bill are home alone. Their owners went to Prince George for the day and have no idea that their home is so close to the fire path.

All Emergency First Responders are activated and an Operations Command Centre is set up. The local Emergency Social Services (ESS) team is joined by fire and police services so every homestead is checked, so families get relocated and animals are removed!

What happens when families and animals get separated? What will happen to Furball, Squawk and Bill? Also under the auspices of Operations Command, the Pet Safe Coalition Society of Canada (PSCS) offers emergency short term assistance to all animals affected by a disaster. Their volunteers are trained to work with a variety of animals and are able to assist rescuers. Furball meows loud enough to be heard but someone has to crawl under the barn to rescue her. Squawk has a beak that could crush a finger so handle him carefully.

And how do you haul a llama to town in a sedan?

All of these situations are possible.

When rescued, animals are taken to an Animal Reception Centre where physical and emotional care is provided.

PSCS is a non-profit organization that works with Emergency Operations, Emergency Social Services, Victim Services, RCMP, Fire Services, the Amata Transition House and Crooked Leg Ranch. In the case of a house fire, when local animal organizations cannot assist, PSCS will step forward. The team will ensure the owner has all the supplies needed or will find foster homes until it is possible to reunite animals with owners. A disaster can occur at any time – fire, flood, vehicle accidents, family strife and death. Anyone with animals should have a plan for how to keep them safe and for what should happen to them when an owner dies.

The group is based in Quesnel and is a sister to the Pet Safe organization in the US. It is a small, dynamic group that covers the northern half of the province. Relatively new, they are working hard to educate pet owners and train volunteers to deal with traumatic events. To support efforts, grants have been received from Quesnel Rotary and Community Futures for the purchase of a mobile Emergency Response Trailer. As well, the Cariboo Regional District Electoral Area B has provided financing towards the upcoming training weekend. All other expenses are covered by local fundraising.

The next training event will be held May 30 – 31 and June 1 at the Bouchie Lake Recreation grounds in Quesnel. On Friday the 30, at 6 p.m., there will be a social and registration at the Bouchie Lake Hall. Overnight camping is available or you can sleep in the hall. Provide your own bedding please. The cost is only $50 for new participants and $30 for returnees.

Sessions include:

• FARSHA – Farm and Ranch Safe Handling of Animals – explanation of roles, safety tips about working with large animals and trailering;

• DOT – Commercial Vehicle Transport – trailer safety, laws and backing up lessons;

• BC Wildfire Management Branch – wildfires, safety zones, perimeters, types of fires, evacuation procedures;

• Animal handling seminars – donkeys and reptiles – experts will share what is needed to keep these animals safe;

• How to set up and maintain an Emergency Animal Reception centre – triage and shelter;

• Volunteer handling – how to handle walk in and untrained volunteers;

• Social Media – how to make it work for you

Note: Except for the social on Friday night, there will be no food vendors provided because the session will simulate a potential emergency event where volunteers need to be self-sufficient for up to 72 hours.

Everyone is welcome and the PSCS is eager to have trained teams in every northern community.

This opportunity is especially valuable to pet owners, ranchers, vet techs and rescue societies.

All are encouraged to participate and this will provide an excellent opportunity for networking.

Debbie Knabke, one of the coordinators, hopes to fill the hall with participants from around the north.

For more information, email pscsc@hotmail.ca.

Pre-registration can be completed at this site: http://www.petsafecoalition.ca/events/2014/05/disaster-training-weekend-2014/

– submitted by

Liz-Anne Eyford