The amount of work involved in preparing for a disaster and the work that needs to be done during a disaster is daunting. To help you understand why so many volunteers are needed, please read through this abreviated list of tasks the team will need to do.


Determine what disasters are possible and develop plans of action and needs analysis based on those possibilities. Be sure all volunteers understand these plans and their roles.

Establish possible shelter locations, close to human shelters if possible. Get written agreements from the facility owners for use of their property for a temporary animal shelter in case of a disaster. Keep these records up to date.

Determine who is trained and able to respond at a moments notice to begin setting up a shelter for the animals (including volunteers to handle all of the jobs involved with operating the temporary shelter.) Training in how to set-up the shelter and how to perform the jobs at the shelter needs to take place prior to an event. There will not be time to do much training on-site until the shelter is up and running and accepting animals.

Be sure all volunteers have proper identification as team members or leaders so they can get into the shelter area.

Be sure all volunteers are registered with at least one county agency so that they are allowed access to the emergency site. This can include CERT (Community Emergency Response Team), OVER- Ohio Veterinary Emergency Response, Citizen Corps. or other county recognized agency. This is also critical for any possible reimbursement as well as workers comp and insurance coverage in some counties.

Establish agreements with pet food vendors to get all types of needed animal food/feed to the site within 8 hours of set-up.

Establish agreements with vendors, individuals and shelters for crates, food bowls, trash cans, clean up supplies (for the volunteers, animals and the facility), temporary fencing, signage, bedding, litter boxes/litter, tarps, tape/rope, lighting, generators, heaters/fans, rubber gloves, hand sanitizer, buckets, hoses, shade tents, tables, chairs, first aid supplies, radios, and any other supplies on the "needed supplies" list that are needed on a moments notice as fast and efficiently as possible. If possible, stock pile some of these items in a trailer or portable bins.

Establish agreements with local animal organizations and farms to take in animals if the disaster is a small scale.

Establish agreements with area veterinarians for emergency care of any injured animals (either through on-scene response by the veterinarian or through treatment agreements for animals brought to the vet by CART members)

Establish agreement with the Red Cross to provide food to the CART volunteers.

Develop working relationships with other emergency response groups so that CART is recognized as a needed response group and so that team member identification is recognized and members are allowed in safe areas near the disaster and rescue task force team members are allowed into restricted areas when it is safe.

Set-up mock drills and other training for team members so they feel prepared to handle a disaster and know what to do if called to respond. The training needs to prepare volunteers so that when called for a disaster, they are ready to step up and perform a multitude of tasks with minimal direction and have their own supplies to be self-sustaining for at least three days. Familiarity with the CART leadership and other volunteers will also help everyone recognize who they can ask for direction or help.

Establish staging areas for trained CART volunteers that are responding to an incident and develop a "phone tree" system of notification letting volunteers know 1) what type of emergency occurred 2) location to respond 3) when to respond (determine work shifts based on volunteer availability) 4) Name of leader on scene

Create a database of locations that have multiple animals that may need help evacuating the animals: Shelters, farms, research facilities, refuges, rescues, Cincinnati zoo and private zoos, multi-pet households, etc.

Create a database of places and people that have supplies or facilities that can be used at a moments notice: Farms to house displaced livestock, shelters for pets during small disasters, people with horse trailers or other trailers or trucks, portable livestock fencing or pens, heavy equipment, etc.

Develop a good map of the area that can be copied and given to volunteers that might need to transport people, supplies, food or animals. These maps can be marked with road closures, the restricted areas, etc.

Educate the public regarding how to deal with a disaster involving their animals. The more self-sufficient people are, the fewer people/animals we will need to help. This education can take the form of flyers, public speaking, this web site and more.



Some disasters and emergencies develop slowly and with some warning (slow rising flood waters, winter storms, extended power outages, etc.) while others occur suddenly and need immediate response (fire in a large apartment building, tornado, chemical spill/explosion, etc.) Regardless of whether or not there is ample warning or no warning, the following actions need to be taken to provide needed services to the displaced people with pets and any other animals effected by the incident.

Notify volunteers to respond - The Emergency Manager, fire chief or police chief can notify a CART Captain of the need for our services. The CART Captain then notifies the leaders on the team who in turn notify their volunteers.

Select the best location for the temporary shelter (or the established shelter that can take the animals.) Once the temp shelter location is decided, contact the facility owner to get permission and access to do a site assessment. The site assessment establishes if the facility is still useable, if there is any existing damage or restricted areas and allows for some pre-planning regarding the placement of various stations within the temp shelter.

Get the temporary shelter set-up and operational. This is a huge task and the better trained and prepared the volunteers are prior to the event, the more smoothly this will go.

  • A reception area needs to be established for the in-take of all volunteers and the animals entering the shelter (from displaced owners, emergency workers or CART rescue volunteers.)
  • Waste disposal area and dog walking area needs to be established away from the shelter area.
  • Proper storage for food and supplies needs to be in a secure area.
  • The shelter area needs to be a securely fenced facility/area to prevent pet theft, especially the most targeted animals: pure breeds and pit bulls. A volunteer (or several) can be assigned to shelter security.
  • Establish a place close to the reception area for outside donations to be collected and where food/supplies needed by the public can be distributed.
  • Establish paperwork and communication systems so animals are continually tracked and monitored and volunteers are utilized in the best way possible.
  • Set-up a first aid area for minor volunteer injuries.
  • Post signs so everyone knows where things are located (especially bathrooms, the veterinary/first-aid station and bottled water stations)
  • Establish the Unit Leaders and the volunteers that will be handling the following areas:
    • reception/in-take
    • supplies and donated items
    • animal care (feeding, cleaning, exercise, etc.)
    • runners for communication and delivery of supplies
    • safety team (also in charge of keeping everyone hydrated)
    • animal owner escorts (animal owners cannot wander through the pet shelter area unescorted)
    • animal intake (takes animals from intake to the shelter care areas)
    • Designate volunteers to contact the facilities that agreed to provide emergency supplies to be sure they have what is needed and that the supplies and access to the location are not effected by the incident.

Designate volunteers (preferably with trucks) to collect the set-up supplies that the local businesses and individuals agreed to donate in case of emergency. Any items that are on loan will need to be marked with where they should be returned (trailers, temp stalls or livestock fencing, etc.)

Have the CART Public Information Officer (PIO) work on collecting as much information about the event as possible and keep the CART Captain informed. The PIO will also be contacting the media so they can let people know where we are set-up and that they can bring their animals to us. If an animal gets left behind, the owner can notify and authorize us so we can go in and get the animal when it is safe to do so.

Once the shelter is in place and operating and the incident is safe for entry, the rescue teams can start going in to get animals that were left behind or need to be evacuated. This does not happen right away and may take a day or two before we are allowed to do this part of our job. In some incidents, this part of the team may not be needed in a rescue capacity, but will be put to use in other areas.


During incidents that last more than 8 hours, there will need to be shift changes within the volunteer force. This will need to be coordinated to most effectively get fresh volunteers into the emergency area and tired volunteers out (or to temporary emergency worker shelter locations or personal tents if the volunteer wants to stay close.)

Record keeping is a huge part of what we will do.

    Keeping track of:

    • Volunteers (sign-in and sign-out, hours worked, getting fresh volunteers when needed, setting up shifts)
    • Animal owners (especially if they are caring for their own animals during the day)
    • The animals in our care
    • Supplies and expenses
    • The rescue team and the areas they have covered
      • As well as:
      • Trying to reunite people and their animals
      • Handle donated supplies and get them to the most needy
      • Helping to evaluate and train members of the general public that arrive on-scene to help
      • Determining what part of our operation needs these new volunteers
      • And much more
    • Volunteers will need to be fed and if the Red Cross is not delivering food, someone will need to go get enough food for all the CART volunteers.


If there are any remaining animals in our care, we will need to find more permanent shelter for them, while maintaining records of where the animals are located in order to get pets and owners reunited.

Temporarily donated supplies need to be returned to those generous folks who offered them. Other supplies need to find storage space or people that need them (pet food to local shelters, etc.)

The temporary shelter will need to be packed up and the area left cleaner than we found it when we arrived - we might need to use it again and don't want to leave a mess!

Debriefing of team members to assess what worked, what didn't and what changes need to be made. Mental health of volunteers is assessed.

Prepare for the next disaster.

Reunions make the hard work and long hours all worth it!

 As the winds blow on
And the waters rise deep
You can hear their cries
You can hear them weep
Those you have brought into your home
Those who are loyal, caring and warm.
You feed them each day, and tell them to stay
And now when they need you, don't turn them away.
When you vowed to love, when you vowed to care
You vowed to sacrifice, and vowed to prepare.
So now in times of trouble and strife
You are responsible for more than one life.
You need to plan, think, and prepare
For all those who need you
Those who depend on your care.

    By Cindy Swancott Lovern

Copyright 2014 Tri-State CART County Animal Response Team