Weather-related and environmental threats that regulated facilities have always faced are becoming more frequent and extreme because of climate change. AWA-regulated facilities can plan for climate-related emergencies to safeguard the welfare of animals in their care and the resilience of their business.
Climate change impacts rainfall, causing droughts to be more frequent, severe, and prolonged. Droughts may result in shortages in the water and food supply, can lead to concurrent natural hazards such as wildfires, and can impact a region for years.
Extreme heat and cold may affect the health and well-being of both animals and humans. In combination with other hazards, such as drought or wildfires, extreme heat can be devastating to a community.
Wind and storms are not just a coastal danger during hurricanes. High winds, heavy rain, flooding, and tornados can happen far inland. There is usually advanced warning which can allow for time to prepare for evacuation. In contrast, urban and wildland fires can happen anywhere at any time, with very little warning, and move very quickly, despite plans such as prioritizing which animals will be evacuated ahead of time.
Licensees and registrants should educate themselves on how climate change may impact their facilities and communities. Numerous resources detailing the effects of climate change can be found below. Reviewing these resources can help you identify critical issues that could impact your facility. We recommend that you consider these issues when reviewing and making updates to your facility's contingency plan. By planning for these potential extremes, you can help to mitigate the impact of a natural disaster on animals, staff, and property.
USDA highly encourages you to build relationships with local, state, and federal emergency management partners to stay informed of potential hazards and be able to share resources when disasters occur. Most disasters don't happen in a vacuum. Emergency response is a highly choreographed activity and understanding how your facility folds into it can help your business survive an emergency event. Remember that partnering now can mean getting help later when your facility really needs it. For example, offering up some of your parking lot space for a staging or storage area during a local response could mean your local law enforcement knows exactly where your facility is when you need to evacuate your animals.
Below is a list of considerations for some common climate-related disasters.
|Conserve water and have alternative water sources|
|Have alternative food sources for pastured animals when grasses and crops are scarce|
|Plan for evacuation|
|Recognize the signs of heat illness in animals and humans, especially for young and older animals, and those with special health conditions|
|Provide animals adequate shade and shelter|
|Provide sources of fresh water for animals, staff, and visitors|
|Have a cooling plan for individuals with heat illness (include a cool location, medical treatment, possible transport)|
|Have a current written contingency plan that everyone knows and has practiced|
|Provide a copy of your contingency plan and animal inventory to local Emergency Management|
|Know evacuation zones, routes, and methods|
|Have an evacuation site for animals with agreements in place (discuss biosecurity issues in advance)|
|Keep trailers and vehicles in good working condition|
|Ensure fencing and buildings are built strong and are in good repair to prevent flying debris|
|Fill large vessels such as troughs or bins with water to keep them from blowing away|
|Store liquid fuel and other chemicals in secure locations|
|Protect feed and hay supplies from wind, rain, standing water|
|Prepare for power outages; have an alternate power source (i.e, generator) available if your animals need power to survive|
|Stores of items such as fence repair supplies, chain saws and fuel are also helpful as these items may also be difficult to acquire if supply channels are disrupted|
|Pay attention to emergency information and alerts. If you live in a mandatory evacuation zone and are told to evacuate, do so immediately.|
|Wait until conditions are safe to check on your animals.|
|Do not return evacuated animals until conditions are safe.|
|Assess your animals and building structures after the storm.|
|Contact your veterinarian if any animals are injured.|
|Look for damage, stability issues, loose debris and safety issues at your facility. Make emergency repairs to keep your animals safe and contained. Stay away from downed powerlines.|
|Provide animals with clean water and uncontaminated food.|
|Check in with local and state authorities if any of your animals have escaped or if deaths result in animal carcass disposal needs.|
|Maintain a current written animal inventory for your facility and identify animals (microchip, ear tag, tattoo, collars, photos)|
|Have equipment available and in good condition to recapture escaped animals (halters, leads, trailers etc.)|
|Bring animals into a barn or shelter well in advance of a storm if possible, and provide plenty of food and water. Build strong shelters that can withstand high wind and heavy rain.|
|Never leave animals tied up outside in any manner such that they cannot escape danger.|
|Keep a 3 to 5 day supply of food and potable water on hand for all animals along with any necessary medications.|
|Keep extra crates on hand use to temporarily house or move smaller sized animals.|
|Sign up for your community’s warning system or have a NOAA Weather Radio on hand if you live in an area with a greater risk of tornados.|
|Focus on keeping yourself, your family and your employees safe. Injured people have limited ability to protect animals in their care.|
The following websites may help prepare your facility for climate-change challenges.Extreme Heat | Ready.gov Extreme Heat | Natural Disasters and Severe Weather | CDC Climate Change and Extreme Heat: What You Can Do to Prepare Zoo and Aquarium All Hazards Partnership (zahp.org) Drought Preparedness | Water Conservation | Red Cross Drought | Ready.gov Drought Makes its Home on the Range – Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet Hazard Planning & Preparedness | Drought.gov Ready.gov Natural Disaster: Animal Preparation and Response Prepare Livestock and Animals Ahead of Severe Weather | USDA Tornadoes and Your Livestock Tornadoes and Your Pets