FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Sandy Collins, RN
Town of Westford Health Director
Telephone: 978-399-2531 (w)
Lowell MA (February 21, 2013) :
Note: This press release is issued jointly by the City of Lowell Police Department, Animal Control Officer, Health Department, the region’s UMV (Upper Merrimack Valley) Medical Reserve Corps and UMV Public Health Coalition.
FEMA Grant Funds Regional Pet Preparedness Initiative
Free public education events available, starting 2/28/13
When Hurricane Sandy ravaged the Northeast, knocking out power and destroying whole communities, the first priority was to protect those who had to be evacuated. But what about their pets?
This issue has a surprisingly major impact on humans. Consider that 44% of those who could have evacuated in Hurricane Katrina refused, purely because they had no accommodations for their animals. Their choice to stay home jeopardized the well-being of not only the families and their pets, but also their neighbors and potential rescuers.
Even across our region today, not all emergency shelters will accept animals. Furthermore, not all pet owners know about basic preparations they can make to minimize the risks to their WHOLE families in case of disaster.
Fortunately, a $15,361.90 FEMA grant was recently awarded to the Upper Merrimack Valley Medical Reserve Corps to collaborate with municipal agencies and response partners across the region to promote pet preparedness. Upcoming activities include public and MRC member education events, supplies for adding pet care capabilities to emergency shelters, and a regional drill to test pet sheltering and response.
“Over the past ten years, we’ve had quite a few emergencies that required evacuations, right here in the Upper Merrimack Valley,” said Sandy Collins, Director of Health Care Services for the Town of Westford. “Floods, fires, ice storms, blizzards, and even tornadoes have threatened our area. Many of our towns have been getting a lot of practice setting up and staffing emergency shelters.” FEMA now requires communities to make accommodations for pets, in order to qualify for reimbursement of sheltering expenses.
Darleen Wood, Animal Control Officer for the City of Lowell, is eager to raise awareness of these activities. “This FEMA grant can empower local communities seeking to add the capacity for emergency care of animals in disaster to many of our shelters, said Wood. “Our towns are striving to give pet owners better options to care for their animals.”
“We know how much pets can mean to a family, and how attached people can be to their animals,” said Richard Day, Health Director for the Town of Chelmsford. “That’s why we’re working with other agencies to build in the capacity for animal care at our town’s emergency shelter. In a disaster, it’s a great comfort to know that the WHOLE family is protected.”
Area residents are invited to attend one of four free one-hour public education events to learn more. Each is from 6 to 7 p.m:
Feb. 28 (Thurs.) – Senior Center, 175 Chandler St, Tewksbury 01876
Mar. 4 (Mon.) – Trinity EMS Training Center, 10 Jean Ave. (behind Hannaford and Taylor Rental at Drum Hill; not to be confused with nearby Trinity Headquarters on Drum Hill Rd.), Chelmsford 01824
Mar. 18 (Mon.) – Senior Center, 75 Groton Rd/Rt. 40, N. Chelmsford 01863
Mar. 20 (Weds.) – Blanchard Middle School, 14 West St, Westford 01886
Pre-registration is encouraged though not required. Call 978-399-2549 or send e-mail to email@example.com to sign up. See www.UMVMRC.org for complete details.
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The Upper Merrimack Valley Medical Reserve Corps, based at the Westford Health Department, has been actively recruiting, training, and deploying both medical and non-medical volunteers in case of disaster for nine years. The local MRC has 550 members and covers Billerica, Chelmsford, Dracut, Lowell, Tewksbury, Tyngsboro, and Westford. There are 980 MRC units nationwide, with over 208,000 members, reporting to the U.S. Surgeon General.