Sunday, October 12, 2008

Cross-training is recommended for rescuers

Rescuers roam the destroyed neighborhoods of New Orleans dropping food for strays.

Advance preparation is urged for rescuers who want to travel into a disaster zone to help. That means getting on the responders’ list before disaster strikes. Rescuers at this week’s DART workshop in Everett were encouraged to attend training sessions, and lots of them.

Untrained rescuers can become a liability. If a calamity occurs, resources must be devoted to rescuing the rescuer. Some people are more concerned about saving animals than preserving their own lives. To them, Tim Perciful adds this cautionary statement: the animal’s life is also being risked when rescuers aren’t safety conscious.

“Now the focus is on saving you. Who is going to help the animal?” said Perciful, a public educator for Mountain View Fire and Rescue in King County, and owner of Learn Pet First Aid.

Besides its DART training, Humane Society of United States offers courses online or at on-site workshops in animal sheltering, animal handling, volunteer management, lobbying and compassion fatigue. The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), offered through local fire departments, also offers courses applicable to animal rescuers. Online study and certification for the Incident Command System is available through the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Fees for the above courses are minimal, or in the case of FEMA, free.

Speakers at the seminar discouraged renegade rescuing. In the wake of the chaos that characterized hurricane Katrina, thousands of rescuers with varying skills levels descended uninvited on the region. Since then, many states have started requiring and enforcing certification for rescuers.

“You don’t self-deploy,” said Anne Culver, a disaster training consultant for HSUS’ emergency services. “You should be part of the system. Are you a surprise, or were you expected?”

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