Florida Shelter Emergency Response

Be prepared for hurricane season!

Dog holding emergency preparedness flyerEvery year the University of Florida shelter emergency response team provides pre- and post-disaster assistance to shelters across the state. We coordinate with local, state, and national organizations to assess needs and coordinate assistance for shelters. One of the most critical needs is the evacuation of shelter animals in the path of a hurricane out of harm’s way. But even more critical is the preparedness of each shelter and the animals in their care. 

COVID-19 has added an additional component to disaster planning in 2020. In addition to general disaster response guidelines listed below, we have included some that are specific to this unprecedented time.

Here’s what you can do now:

  • Update your emergency response shelter contact information:
    • While the UF team takes the lead in coordinating emergency response efforts, it’s up to you to make sure we have your emergency contact information before a threat is looming so we can keep you updated and coordinate any assistance you might need.
    • What we need is your shelter’s point of contact, a direct line to that contact—cell phone number and social media/messenger connection. Why are we asking for this? We have found that trying to call a shelter’s main line during or after a hurricane, when power may be out, will hinder our efforts in getting you the resources and assistance you and the animals in your shelter need. Cell phone service, while more reliable than landlines, may also be interrupted. Social media is often our most reliable method for reaching you in certain situations.
    • We will not use this information for any other purpose, and all emergency contact information will remain confidential at UF. 

Here’s what you can do to get ready for a storm:  

  • Be ready to take advantage of any pre-storm transport offered so that you can reserve your limited space for post storm victims
  • Transport out any pre-storm animals that are off their stray hold and available for adoption
  • Update and print medical records in case you lose power (place each animal’s record in a plastic sheet protector which can be taped or attached to a carrier)
  • Place ID bands on the animals to avoid confusion during transport (if they are microchipped that is great too as long as the chip number is recorded in their medical history)
  • Gather crates/carriers for transport and/or temporary fostering
  • Ask the community for help with temporary fostering during the storm so you can again free up space in the shelter for post-storm victims
  • Make sure you have enough supplies on hand (food/water) for 7 days in case help is not able to reach your shelter
  • Make sure you know your County’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and Emergency Support Function (ESF)17 contacts
    • The ESF system is primarily to assist municipal shelters.
    • Private shelters should have a plan to work with your local resources first (other shelters in the area, transport teams, volunteers, etc.) to prep and handle the storm. If your local resources cannot help and it is a dire/emergency/life-threatening to animals situation, you should reach out to your County ESF17 contact and then to FL State Agricultural Response Team (SART) directly if the County cannot help.
    • There will be times when SART cannot help because they’re relying on multiple agencies to network/move or not in a situation where they can help.

Additional information to help you prepare: