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Veterinarian Technician March 2007 (Vol 28, No 3) Focus: Emerging Infectious Diseases

Editorial: "Are You Prepared?"

by Hilda Guay

    These days, with the aid of digital cameras, satellites, camera phones, and the Internet, the devastation that is caused during a disaster is no longer reduced to a still photograph in a newspaper or news magazine. Constant access to electronic gadgets now takes us places we have never been before. In late December 2004, many of us watched our TV screens in stunned silence while an amateur video showed a tsunami flooding the beach in Indonesia, washing away everything in its path. I remember thinking, "What would I have done had I been there? Would the choices I made have been the right ones?"

    When Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast the following August, we were overwhelmed with video footage of people being evacuated by boat and of families stranded on rooftops waiting to be rescued. News stations bombarded us with images of thousands of people crammed into the Superdome, desperate for food and water. Katrina hit close to home in numerous ways. In the 2 years since, many of us have discovered that we know someone who was affected by the disaster, someone who volunteered his or her services, or someone who fostered or adopted a displaced pet. Katrina made it apparent that at any time, we, too, can become victims of a disaster.

    If a disaster occurred right now where you live or work, what would you do? Do you have a plan to get yourself and your family to safety? Do you have a plan to evacuate your pets? How would your clinic fare? Have you created a plan that includes evacuating your patients?

    In this issue, Amy Breton, CVT, VTS (ECC), provides step-by-step instructions on how to create plans to keep your family and your pets safe in the event of a disaster. She also provides details on how to establish a disaster plan for your clinic.

    Amy writes from experience. Several years ago, she joined Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams (VMATs), which are deployed during disasters to provide veterinary care. "When I joined VMAT," she says, "the focus was on natural disasters like tornadoes and hurricanes. I remember thinking that I would never get deployed because my team [in New England] was the farthest one away from these areas. But 9 months after I joined VMAT, 9/11 took place. Now I realize that disasters can happen anywhere."

    NEXT: Getting Involved: "Disaster Preparedness — Are You Ready?"