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Summer Journal

Volume 27, Issue 3

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A Look Beyond the ‘Obvious’ When Planning for Disaster

Ryan Ault is the emergency response manager for Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah. He is also an armed forces veteran, a former lieutenant of animal services in California. Ault is certified in swift water rescue, rope rescue, large animal handling, trench rescue, collapsed structure, and wildland fire.

The "devil is in the details!" How many times have we heard this statement? Let's explore how this might apply to one aspect of business recovery planning.

Companies rely heavily on "critical staff" and have a tendency to feel they "will be there when needed." However, when a disaster strikes, people worry as much about their pets or livestock as they do their families. If there is little or no plan in place for this aspect of their lives, the company's critical staff will either not be available to help or won't be fully attentive to details the company might be expecting.

There are a variety of "not-for-profit" organizations that come together to assist with community disasters. Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, has become internationally recognized for providing support to people and their beloved pets. The following is an interview with Emergency Response Manager Ryan Ault.

Williams: What can companies do pre-disaster to help reduce the need for your services in a disaster ultimately making the company and community recover quicker?

Ault: If businesses look at making sure their employees have the information or can get the education they need to be best prepared when a disaster strikes, the end results will be the business getting themselves back online and back to business that much faster. The less down time, the fewer losses! Small things business can do are provide/communicate the information that is already gathered for the animal owners and lovers among their employees from sources like Best Friends and FEMA. Make sure any issues or disaster specific to the businesses are talked about or have a link off their human resources site. Make the information easy and accessible to their employees and make sure they know about it. This is a win-win situation for businesses. It not only shows the employees that their concerns and well being are shared by the business, but the employees being better prepared will allow them to return to work and be productive that much quicker after a disaster.

Williams: What are your thoughts on the "lost or homeless pet" having consequences for business recovery if the pet was owned by one of their critical staff? If so, how companies can address this issue.

Ault: I believe that new hire orientations and further training for all employees can address how companies can help their employees with pet issues during a disaster and maybe inventory all company pets.

Williams: How do you prepare for responding to such a wide variety of community disasters?

Ault: We make sure our team is always training to prepare for what Mother Nature has in store for us. We also make sure we have a good working relationship with other agencies by establishing a memorandum of understanding pre-disaster.

Williams: Are you dependent on other agencies/companies to provide services and/or products before or during deployment?

Ault: While Best Friends is to solely dependent on any other agency, we are part of a coalition by the name of National Animal Rescue Sheltering Coalition.

Williams: Do you have a core team of staff dedicated to manage the full deployment process? What role do volunteers play in a disaster situation for you?

Ault: Our volunteers are the ligaments and tendons of an operation once the core team is deployed. The core team may be the "muscle" but without our volunteers to hold everything together (taking care of the animals rescued, supplying us with their expertise and skills that we don't have among the five of us) we aren't accomplishing anything really.

Williams: Is there an escalation process involved before you are deployed to assist?

Ault: Yes. We have to be deployed from a requesting party which is usually the state or agency in need. We then have internal procedures within our own agency. Once that is completed, a memorandum of understanding with the requesting party is always needed (if one is not already in place).

Summary

The relationship between humans and animals is very close and of primary importance. Animals are rescued and sent to a variety of locations so they are cared for and out of harm's way. These locations could be controlled by a variety of agencies. Capturing the names and contact information for potential agencies in your area could make this process quicker and less frightening for your staff and thus more available to your company. Minimally, companies in disaster-prone areas would benefit by factoring this into their recovery process.

For more information on Best Friends Animal Sanctuary and links to other animal rescue organizations, visit www.BestFriends.org.

Sara Williams, CBCP, is certified with DRI International. She is currently a business continuity consultant for Jack Henry & Associates. Williams recently rolled off the DRJ Editorial Advisory Board after four years of service.