It’s been 10 years since Katrina. Top animal rescue teams have gathered to celebrate the lessons learned, the advances made in the last 10 years, and to advance their skills in preparation for the next big disaster.
Dr. Elena, from The Global Alliance for Animals and People, was invited to participate in the Bootcamp. We are eager to apply everything learned to our Disaster Response program in Chile. Read her experience at the 8 day Bootcamp.
By Dr. Elena Garde
What an honour to spend time with some of the best and brightest in the animal disaster world. The Katrina Bootcamp was the first of its kind and an opportunity for me to see how the United States has developed and improved their response to help families and their animals following disasters. Battling the extreme heat and humidity of the Louisiana summer, about 40 of us made it through eight days of diverse training including boat handling, water rescues, large and small animal rescue and emergency sheltering. The group consisted of military personnel, firefighters, police, conservation officers, animal care officers, welfare organization staff, biologists and a handful of veterinarians, all with extensive training in all areas of disaster management and response.
Katrina was truly a game-changer for the US, and shaped the way the country views the importance of the human-animal bond and how that translates into action following a disaster. In Chile, we lack structure and hierarchy within government and non-government organizations to manage a coordinated response; we lack certain resources to arm a safe and appropriate shelter in an emergency; we lack skilled responders to assist when animals are trapped in mud or floods or holes; there is competition among organizations and volunteers and individual responders- yet this too was the situation during Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana. The stories told by participants at Bootcamp were so powerful, so emotional, bringing many to tears as they gathered again 10 years later, in the very same place that they had sheltered thousands of animals, the same people, the same date….it was awe-inspiring to watch so many come together again, and reflect on how they were then, and how they are now; how they have learned to collaborate rather than compete; how they focus on preparation rather than on the response and how they have learned the importance of keeping those families together- and that pets must be treated as another member of the family.
Of course the culture and the resources available differ, at times greatly from
Chile, but the lessons learned in the US since Katrina gave me a certain vision for the future of the animal response here in Latin America. I see that the will and the drive to do something similar are both there, and it is only a matter of organizing ourselves as colleagues and partners with a shared vision to help animals and families stay together. Step by step, we will get there, we will improve our response every time, and we will strengthen our multi-disciplinary team to respond to the Chilean public and their animals when in need. It will look different, it will reflect the culture, the people, their relationship with their animals and the resources available, but it will be just as good!
Many thanks to IFAW for sending me to this training, and bringing this knowledge and experience back to Chile.
Check pictures from the bootcamp! just click in the images