In the last two years, Washington County residents have experienced more than one weather disaster, and the emergency response focused on humans.
But there were also numerous animals affected by those disasters — tornadoes in 2011 and flooding in 2012 — and a group of animal lovers recently decided it’s time to create an emergency response system for large and small four-legged, scaly and feathered disaster victims.
The plan actually began to develop prior to the April 2011 tornadoes that hit the area, but that disaster response took precedence over planning. Now, the group is gearing back up to creating Washington County DART — Disaster Animal Response Team — to help rescue and provide emergency shelter for animals.
Kitty Juul, curriculum design manager for the Rural Domestic Preparedness Consortium, and Emergency Management Agency Operations Officer Chad Bruckman began meeting with animal lovers, all volunteers, to create DART.
Now, they need more volunteers to train for DART certification to provide these kinds of disaster emergency services.
Juul said a friend first contacted her about the idea.
“She asked if there was any group involved in rescuing animals in a disaster,” Juul said. “She was concerned about animals affected by the flooding,” she said, referring to the widespread flooding in Washington County in August.
“Before the tornado in 2011 we had someone talk to us about establishing a DART. At that point we were on our way to getting one developed (but) after the tornado, that took everyone’s time and we lost our momentum,” Juul said. “We’re just starting up again.”
DART training consists of a free three-hour course offered through the Federal Emergency Management Agency that teaches the participant how to respond to a disaster incident with proper training in animal care.
Juul said the training is open to everyone, but encouraged shelter volunteers, veterinarians, veterinary techs and people with livestock experience as well as animal lovers in general.
“We’re looking for horse people ... exotic animal people, dog people and cat people,” Juul said.
She also said the organization will need donations of material such as emergency shelter kennels and cages or donations to purchase those items.
Prior to the DART class, students must complete four online courses also offered through FEMA that provide a foundation for the response training, Juul said.
Those classes take approximately two to three hours and are free, she said.
“Before they become a credentialed responder, they need to complete the four National Incident Management System classes,” she said.
Those courses are Incident Command System, National Incident Management System, National Response Framework and Single Resources. After successfully passing a short test at the end of the course, the participant will receive a certificate. The DART certification is through the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.
For more information about DART credentials, email Dr. Doug Balthaser at the Department of Agriculture at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 615-837-5120. To register for DART, email Juul at email@example.com or call 439-8513 before April 11. For the four prerequisite courses, go to http://training.fema.gov/IS/NIMS.asp.