The California Farm Bureau Federation represents production agriculture on the CARES Steering Committee; other committee members include representatives of state and federal agencies, veterinarians, animal-welfare organizations, the Red Cross and the University of California, Davis. Under a grant from the federal Department of Homeland Security, the committee is reworking and updating CARES.
To help inform that process, CFBF, in conjunction with the California Veterinary Medical Association, recently surveyed more than 100 Farm Bureau members and others in animal agriculture. This survey augmented a broader survey conducted earlier, which included input from county Farm Bureaus and members.
Findings from the agriculture-specific survey included:
- More than 72 percent of respondents have been involved in a non-animal disease emergency.
- The most common emergencies experienced were fires, extreme weather, floods and drought.
- More than two-thirds of respondents said they would volunteer to help during an emergency affecting animals.
- Nearly 72 percent of respondents said they were unaware of any city or county resources available to help them care for animals in an emergency.
- More than three-quarters of respondents have no written emergency plan to address these types of emergencies.
Several respondents gave insightful comments as to how CARES could better serve agriculture.
"I'd like to know what type of help can be had if we have a problem," wrote one.
Another added, "Emergency personnel directing traffic are not flexible in allowing us to move up and down the roads to rescue our animals. We can get into 'flooded' areas where cars cannot. We know the conditions. They slow down the rescue efforts."
A third respondent stressed the need for emergency agencies to be willing to work with ranchers in evacuating their animals.
"While keeping human safety in mind, they need to be realistic about letting owners into their properties to haul animals out and understand that it may take more than one load to get the task done," the respondent wrote.
Others expressed a need to train emergency responders in animal handling and to seek better communication; one rancher noted that outdated Cal Fire website information meant that real-time information could be obtained only by going to the fireline.
CFBF will share results of this survey with the CARES Steering Committee and will also use the feedback to make sure Farm Bureau members know about the state's emergency management system and how to go about creating a written, farm-specific emergency plan.
The CARES website at www.cal-cares.com provides information on animal emergency management, including planning information to assist individuals and businesses. CARES also maintains a Facebook page.
Take advantage of the resources CARES makes available so that, before disaster strikes—or strikes again—you're fully prepared to care for yourself and your animals.