The devastation of natural disasters is felt throughout the state of California every year. Ventura County has witnessed and suffered through the Thomas fire of 2017, the Hill and Woolsey fires of 2018, and the Easy and Maria Fires of 2019. For years, the Humane Society of Ventura County has functioned as an evacuation center for animals in need of refuge as a result of California’s many wildfires. During such emergencies, our shelter has relied heavily on volunteers to provide extra helping hands in the midst of chaos. These dedicated people work tirelessly to provide care for the multitude of animals seeking sanctuary.
It was the hard work of our staff and volunteers during emergencies that inspired Humane Officer Kendra King to develop the HSVC Emergency Response Team. With this program, our most experienced volunteers, many of whom were already Animal Ambassadors, will be trained directly by staff to provide extra support during emergency situations.
Members of the ERT program (ERTs) are trained in two teams. One team will be trained to assist our office staff with evacuee animal intake and data entry in the event of a natural disaster. The second team will learn how to clean and care for the evacuated animals to assist our kennel staff. ERTs are encouraged to participate in training for both teams so they can fill in wherever staff needs assistance most during an emergency.
“My goal is to train these ERTs so they can provide much-needed support for the staff and animals at the shelter during natural disasters. We get so busy so quickly during an emergency, it is often overwhelming for the staff. With more hands-on-deck, we will be able to provide support to those in need in a more organized and timely manner," stated Officer King.
With the HSVC still closed to the public due to COVID-19, our ERTs have had to follow strict guidelines to keep themselves and the staff safe when coming to the shelter for training. ERTs are only allowed at the shelter during their scheduled training time to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Upon arrival to a training session, each ERT must have their temperature taken by a staff member before entering the building. During training, ERTs must wear a mask, practice social distancing, and sanitize their hands each time they enter a building or touch a piece of equipment.
“The development of the ERT program will help our shelter prepare for a disaster before the disaster hits. We are so proud of all the hard work Officer King has put into creating this program, and so proud of our chosen volunteers for rising to the challenge,” said Shelter Director Jolene Hoffman.