Prepared for the Worst

Category: Fall 2019, Pet Friendly San Diego 17 0

When fire, earthquake, flood or other emergency strikes—near or far—the Emergency Response Team is ready for action.

What Is It?

The ERT is San Diego Humane Society’s network of responders trained to assist in natural disasters or cruelty cases when animal welfare is jeopardized. Over the past year, SDHS has streamlined a host of emergency groups, including the Animal Rescue Reserve, Special Response Team, and Humane Law Enforcement, into a single, unified force: the Emergency Response Team.

“Our goal is to create a modular and uniform response entity that can serve a variety of needs and is in compliance at the national level, and below,” says John Peaveler, who heads up the ERT as SDHS’s emergency services administrative lieutenant.

The ERT strives to be prepared for anything at home, and when needed, can deploy responders to emergencies around the country. SDHS got a taste of this in the aftermath of last year’s Camp Fire in Northern California. Eight Humane Law Enforcement officers, among other trained responders, traveled to Butte County to help care for the 1,600 temporarily or permanently orphaned animals. Assisting in emergencies away from home also serves as invaluable training that ERT responders can put to work in San Diego.

The key word here is interoperability—a term used by first responders like police and firefighters to signal that with the proper training, a person can fit seamlessly into another agency’s operation. “When we communicate with other agencies around the county, state, or country, we’re speaking the same language now,” Peaveler says.

What Do They Do?

ERT members are prepared to rescue and care for animals no matter the circumstances, but their main priority is deadly wildfires. “We have people trained to operate safely in a fire environment—they know how fire behaves and when to leave for their own safety,” Peaveler says. With their helmets, fire jackets, boots, and gloves, they look just like wildland firefighters.

The ERT’s work isn’t over once the animals have been rescued from the flames or floods: The team also goes behind fire lines to feed animals who don’t need to be evacuated, and cares for those who do. Some ERT members are trained in animal handling and care, or emergency medicine. Others serve as communications experts or administrators to keep track of animals, owners, and responders, and manage the overall effort from incident command. Training is ongoing through hands-on drills or coursework.


By the Numbers

4,564: Hours volunteers were in the field doing emergency response work

165: ERT responders across all specialties

6: Core teams comprising the ERT: technical rescue, fire rescue, Humane Law Enforcement, transportation, command and control, and animal sheltering

3: Heavy-duty pickup trucks ready to roll into duty

3: Trailers stocked and prepared for deployment in a variety of distinct situations, including technical rescues, small animal transport, large animal transport, and livestock transport


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