The Big Bend Disaster Animal Response Team has participated in four Formidable Footprint on-line disaster exercises through the ONX system. Each exercise challenged the team members to think through our activation protocols, identify skills and equipment needed for the task at hand, and most importantly, learn what other organizations and agencies our team will need to work with when responding to disasters.
Our team noticed that in response to our feedback after the first couple of exercises, more animal issues were included in the later exercises. The Wildfire exercise, especially, used our team to its fullest – setting up and operating a pet friendly shelter for evacuees, and sending our rescue team out with local Animal Control officers to collect pets that had been left behind. This challenge resulted in the team deciding to set up a separate emergency animal shelter to hold these animals until their owners could claim them, converting our rescue team into a sheltering team on the spot, as well as raising a spirited discussion of long-term sheltering. These are the kind of questions our team wrestled with during the on-line training – flexibility, cross-training, and maintaining two separate sheltering operations; but we all agreed that it’s better to face these issues now than during a real-life disaster.
The ONX System incorporates interactive maps, photos, and videos that lead participants through the stages of response and recovery. The Formidable Footprint exercises offered through the ONX System offers flexibility in scheduling and location – all you need is a computer with downloaded Silverlight software. I’ve participated in many tabletop exercises, live simulations, and on-live disaster exercises and I’m convinced they’re one of the best ways to get teams prepared to respond to disasters. I plan to continue to incorporate these on-line disaster exercises as part of Big Bend DART’s training plans in the future.
Big Bend DART Inc