On Saturday, June 12, Pet Haven volunteers participated in a "sheltering exercise" conducted in Richfield. Shorty (white poodle) and Trixie (yorkie who her foster affectionately calls "prima donna") are both Pet Haven alums; and Susie (Pet Haven foster) were all volunteer animal evacuees. Erich and Sally (Pet Haven volunteers) were human evacuees.
The sheltering exercise was sponsored by the Richfield Public Safety Dept and was unique in that it was a joint human/animal sheltering exercise. The scenario was that a severe storm had passed through the area and flash flooding and straight line winds left homes in a portion of the City uninhabitable. The human and animal shelters were set up to house the people and their pets who were displaced by the storm.
The animal shelter was at the Richfield Public School District's bus garage and the human shelter was across the parking lot at a school. There were also human evacuees who arrived with their pets and others who arrived without animals. The human shelter was managed by the Red Cross with the help of Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) volunteers and the animal shelter was managed by volunteers recruited by the MN Animal Disaster Coalition (MNADC) and included animal control staff from Minneapolis and other metro communities. The joint exercise was coordinated by Charlie O'Brien, an employee of the Richfield Public Safety Dept and President of MNADC.
The exercise lasted about 4 hours. The human volunteers without animals checked directly in to the Red Cross shelter. Those with animals first checked their pets into the animal shelter and then went to the human shelter to check in. We were allowed to go back and forth between the 2 shelters to visit our animals and take them for walks. There were about 30 dogs and one very brave cat in the shelter. A volunteer veterinarian was at the animal shelter to care for animals with medical needs.
A few volunteers were recruited to play special roles to test whether shelter staff knew how to handle special situations. One human evacuee pretended to become very ill while at the shelter and another arrived at the shelter acting very intoxicated. Volunteers staffing the animal shelter were confronted with someone attempting to claim a dog that belonged to someone else and a person who was hysterical because they could not find one of their pets after the storm and had to evacuate without him.
The purpose of the exercise was for emergency management and response volunteers to practice procedures and learn from the experience to better prepare them for a real emergency.
Volunteers from other animal rescue groups also participated in the exercise including Pet Haven's partners in the Chaska Shed project, Carver-Scott Humane Society.