Probably the main reason we are all here today is because the good , bad and the unexpected that happened in response to the monument fire in Sierra Vista. We thought it would be helpful to start off today by talking about that fire and our response to it.
This is the view from close to the center of Sierra Vista at the height of the danger to Sierra Vista and the surrounding communities.
New Frontier’s response to the fire was not planned or even considered to be a role that New Frontier would perform – it is a response to a need as we saw it at the time.
Annex 1, the main dog facility
All the veterinary facilities in town were involved with their own efforts in their own way. New Frontier was the only veterinary facility that was accepting all pets and then expanding their facilities to meet the need.
The Cat room in Annex 3.
It is important to understand that veterinarians will get involved in this kind of response almost by accident, as a natural extension of what they do every day. Part of most veterinary practices business model is to offer boarding services for pets.When demand outstrips the supply of local boarding facilities, those faculties have to make a choice to either step up , and potentially lower the level of service to pay clients, or start turning people away. Both choices can have serious financial consequences for a small business. New Frontier does not normally offer boarding and therefore did not have this dilemma - only the initial dilemma as to what they could to help the community.
Kind of speaks for itself.
One veterinary facility was evacuated three times due to the fire. They had started to take boarders from evacuees and then stopped because of their risk of evacuation. Because of the commitment to paid boarding, most veterinary hospitals found it difficult to get involved with unpaid evacuation needs.
We were using empty buildings, that had A/C and power but nothing else. Internet access, phones, crates, cages, food, leashes, and organization structure all had to be resolved in one way or another. We’d never done this before, did not know how we could turn to and how we should go about things. We were just one veterinary practice and a number of volunteers trying to help. The community response was amazing but nobody wanted to step on anyone else's toes locally.
This is the dog area in annex three.
New frontier became identified as the main organization co-ordinating pet evacuation needs, but this was really only for our own efforts. For a number of reasons, and really why we are all here today, New Frontier was essentially the largest pet responder, and we were pretty lonely. SAVMG stepped in a helped fill some of the need – but this was also a new role of SAVMG.
Just some of the crates that were donated as part of evacuation efforts. Without crates the evacuation effort was in real trouble.
A new frontier exam room being used to house pets.
Cats get freaked out, are difficult to handle properly even when you are trained, more difficult to read their body language and is a different kind of bond than most humans to dogs. Over whelmed with people happy to work with dogs, not so many ok with cats and we dealt with more cats than dogs by an almost 2-1 margin. You can sent veterinarians to look after pets, but most veterinarians do not manage people or facilities. Most veterinarians do not deal with some of the legal aspects that managers deal with. Tracking inventory (pets) is a huge deal. It needs to be put in place as soon as possible in additon to other paperwork – consents, liability releases and internal record keeping.
The staff locker room at new froniter.
Donated pet food taking over the new frontier phamacy.
The Monument Fire
An Unexpected Pet Emergency. An Unexpected Response.THE MONUMENT FIRE:
THE MONUMENT FIRE 29,746 acres in Arizona 1,179 people assigned to the fire, including 27 crews, 92 engines, and 7 helicopters. First reported June 12, 2011 at 1 p.m. On June 24, 2011 all evacuations lifted. 40 homes destroyed!
WHO WE ARE - Kathryn Honda, Hospital Administrator, New Frontier Animal Medical Center, Sierra Vista, AZ. Role during fire: Overall Coordinator for New Frontier’s pet evacuation centers. Mike Falconer, Hospital Manager, Casa Grande Animal Hospital, Casa Grande, AZ. Role during fire: Deputy Coordinator, pet inventory management.
WHAT WE DID… Over fourteen days we provided shelter, food, water and medical care to over 350 pets belonging to owners who had been evacuated. At the height of our efforts we had three “annexes” as shelters in addition to New Frontier’s facility. Many staff were evacuated themselves. No preparation.
WHAT WE DID (CONT.) One of several private Veterinary Hospitals, Boarding Facilities, and Riding Clubs providing low cost or no cost shelter for pets. Through the Southern Arizona Veterinary Managers Group (SAVMG) we were able to request and receive medications, supplies, and personnel. Managed a significant general public volunteer force. We never lost a pet in our care.
WHY WE DID WHAT WE DID… Most boarding facilities and Veterinarians who offer boarding for pets do so as part of their business. New Frontier was offering services outside of their normal business model. The need, within a couple of days, outstripped what New Frontier’s facility could handle which ultimately led to three annexes temporarily donated by a local realtor.
WHY WE DID WHAT WE DID (CONT.) New Frontier and all three Annexes were in the center of town and not in evacuation zones – unlike some of the commercial facilities, one of which had be evacuated at the height of the fire. There was a need and we filled it! Most facilities did not get into the pet evacuation business on purpose – just a natural extension of business as usual.
OUR CHALLENGES… Lack of infrastructure! Communications, documentation, and equipment were all issues. Lack of formal agreements and organized personnel structure for this kind of event. No official role: We could only advise commercial operations on pet care. We had no authority to say conditions are not good enough or to transfer pets.
OUR CHALLENGES (CONT.) Speed of response: Most of the agencies that we thought would have been involved were not involved at all until too late. It was difficult for commercial operations to donate to other commercial operations for tax reasons. Liability and general costs of this type of incident could be significant for a private business. Monument Fire cost New Frontier around $20,000
WHAT WE LEARNED… Each facility needed to have a plan but we also needed a local plan so we could understand our role and responsibilities and how we could work together. We needed to become part of the Incident Command System (ICS) and National Incident Management System (NIMS) for incidents that will involve pets.
WHAT WE LEARNED (CONT.) That cats are a much bigger issue than dogs. That management of shelters, not just medical care and attending to basic needs, is extremely important. That tracking and documenting pets becomes critical very early on.
WHAT WE LEARNED (CONT.) That we have a great community that can do amazing things with no planning and little forethought – just imagine what we can do if we start planning and truly put our minds to the problem! We know that animals are a lower priority response wise. However, we must remember that pets are treated as children in most Americans homes, therefore people want them cared for. If the Monument Fire taught us nothing else, it would be that practices and the SAVMG have a role to play and we will end up playing that role whether we plan for it or not.
QUESTIONS? Kathryn Honda, Hospital Administrator, New Frontier Animal Medical Center, Sierra Vista T: (520) 459-0433 E: firstname.lastname@example.org Mike Falconer, Hospital Manager, Casa Grande Animal Hospital, Casa Grande T: (520) 836-5979 E: email@example.com