Hurricane Sandy and BARCS
Evacuation - October 28-30, 2012
(Rick) Lewis Jr., DVM
Hurricane Sandy slammed the
Northeastern United States October 29, 2012 and continued its
slow moving broad destructive path through the first week of
November. The devastating effects of this wide slow moving
superstorm are still being felt across the Northeast, the
Central Appalachians and well into New England. Initial
estimates (the Washington Post 10/31/2012) suggest that the
powerful storm has claimed at least 51 lives and caused up to
$20 billion in damage.
Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie
Rawlings-Blake kept the public updated on city operations.
Travel and parking restrictions began 6 p.m. on October 29 and
was lifted at noon on October 30. Mayor Rawlings-Blake stated
that “the number one focus throughout this storm, and for the
duration of our recovery effort, is public safety.” Some notes
from Mayor Rawlings-Blake report (www.baltimorecity.gov
on October 29 and 30) that Hurricane Sandy brought 6 ½ inches of
rain, sustained winds of 40 mph, wind gusts of 67 mph, 230 trees
down (more than ½ in the roads) and as of 10 a.m. October 30,
BGE was reporting 220 downed wires and 14,000 customers without
power in Baltimore City.
In preparation for Hurricane Sandy
dozens of shelter workers, fellow rescue groups, volunteers, and
private citizens joined in the emergency evacuation efforts of
Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter (BARCS) which is located
in a low-lying flood zone in Baltimore, MD. All 200 plus dogs
and cats were safely transported from the shelter to their
temporary housing location at the First Mariner Arena where they
stayed for the duration of the storm, after which all the
animals were safely transported back to the shelter.
Academy Animal Hospital played an
important role in this evacuation. Rachel Frock called from BARCS on Sunday, October 28 to advise that the shelter might
need to be evacuated Monday morning and asked if we could take“
the thirteen bite/quarantine dogs. I confirmed with my kennel
staff and we prepared for their arrival. Rachel called late
Sunday to confirm the evacuation order for Monday, October 29 at
8 a.m. issued by Jen Brause, BARCS Executive Director, based on
recommendations from the Mayor’s office and the city Emergency
Operations Center. The thirteen quarantine dogs were transported
by Animal Control Officers of Baltimore City to Academy Animal
Hospital at 10 a.m. Monday October 29, 2012. All 13 dogs were
identified, logged in by name and animal control identification
numbers. A transport ticket was signed by the lead animal
control officer delivering the animals, and I cosigned as I
received the animals at Academy. I chose to limit the handling
and information recording to myself and to veterinary assistant
Mary Kate Morris to minimize contact with the quarantined
animals. The dogs were fed and runs were cleaned twice a day, or
more often if needed. Run cards identified the animal and showed
data on food, water, intake, bowel movements and urine output
and notations if needed, for example, regarding vomiting or
diarrhea, or if the dogs were receiving medications.. The cards
were readily visible on the the run door. Data from the run
cards were collected and transcribed to a master sheet (the
“check all animals record.”)
The dogs were discharged to Animal
Control Officer on October 31. A transport ticket was made as
noted above, this time from Academy to Animal Control Officers
for return to BARCS/Animal Control facility. The “chain of
custody” is maintained and identified on records. Complete and
accurate record keeping and an unbroken “chain of custody” are
very important elements when handling cases for Animal
Control.The hospital was staffed around the clock from Sunday
October 28 through Wednesday October 31 twenty-four hours for
security and care of the animals.
The following is an abbreviated statement from Jen Brause, BARCS Executive Director regarding the evacuation.
“We had been talking about
emergency preparedness since we took over the shelter
operations. We received funding to purchase some emergency
supplies that were being stored onsite in a trailer that the
City owned. These supplies included things like: crates, safety
catch poles, nets, etc. The rest of the supplies [we used] are
in house on a regular basis and were kept on an “emergency list”
so that we could easily go around and gather the necessary
supplies. These were things like: containers of food, paper
trays, litter containers, bite gloves, etc.
The concern at the shelter is
flooding. Water surrounds the shelter on 2 sides- one side about
50 feet away and the other side about 100 feet away. The garage
flooded and the parking lot flooded during Tropical Storm
Isabel. Also often during a normal rain, the drains in the
kennels back up and water comes up through them.
The biggest concern has always
been, where would we evacuate to? The city had never identified
a location. Last year when we had a threat of evacuating,
Pimlico stepped forward and offered their horse stables. These
would be perfect for flooding concerns, but still would have
exposed the animals to weather since they were not completely
enclosed. However, it was better than flooding at the shelter.
We did all the preparation for evacuation. Fortunately, with
keeping in touch with the Safety and Risk Manager at the
National Aquarium in Baltimore (who was constantly in touch with
national weatherman) as well as the City’s office of emergency
preparedness, we learned that the threat of flooding was very
small if not nonexistent. The tide and winds would actually push
the water away for the shelter. Therefore, we did not evacuate
Shortly after that occurred, I
connected with the GM of First Mariner Arena, Frank Remesh. I
was touring his facility for other reasons and while there asked
him about the possibility to evacuate there. He said yes, as
long as there was not an act in town. There would be no room if
there was. That became our number one location, with Pimlico
being the second. The First Mariner Arena loading dock area was
larger than we needed, was completely closed off, had drains,
hoses, cement floor, and lighting. There are also conference
rooms just down the hall that we could keep cats in separated
from the dogs. They also had a generator and 24 hour security.
This year, about 5 days before
the hurricane (Thursday), it became apparent that the storm
would likely hit the east coast vs. going out to sea. It was
also clear that it would remain a hurricane. The Mayor’s office
of emergency prep agreed it was best to be conservative, so we
told all staff and volunteers that we would make the call to
evacuate by Sunday afternoon . We put a call out to our
volunteers to come if they could and to let us know ahead of
time if possible so we could assign duties.
Over the next few days,
volunteers came forward to foster animals that they guaranteed
they would take with them if it became necessary to evacuate
their home. This helped us to decrease the shelter population.
We also continued normal business of adoptions and intake.
Friday was spent with meetings
amongst the managers and a review with staff of the plans. We
also were able to get Hoffberger Moving Services (right next
store to us) to donate a moving truck to [carry supplies] . They
donated a second truck for the actual evacuation.
Over Saturday and Sunday, we
gathered all the supplies on our emergency list and loaded the
truck. We learned we were short about 45 crates. We put a call
out on social media for crates and blankets and the public came
forward! We also made sure every animal had a neck band with
their ID number, name, and cage number on it, and that every cat
had a labeled carrier and that the dog crates were
Sunday we spent more time trying
to find additional large transport vehicles to assist with the
evacuation of about 200 animals (110 cats and 90 dogs). We were
having trouble figuring out what to do with the 13 bite
case/quarantine dogs in our care. We contacted Academy Animal
Hospital’s Dr. Lewis and he agreed to house all 13 dogs.
Monday morning I arrived at the
shelter to dozens of people I didn’t know but all willing to
help! It was amazing. As it neared 7 am, more and more people
showed up and the parking lot became grid locked! There were
several moving trucks, SUV’s, a grooming truck, and a horse
trailer that we didn’t expect!! We packed the conference room,
the lobby, and people were lined up out the door! We held a
meeting to give everyone a summary of what we were going to do
and then we asked them to be patient as we assigned people
tasks. We had more people then we needed, but were so grateful!
Some of us went to the arena to
unload supplies, put the appropriate items in the dog and cat
areas, set up the cat crates with litter, food, and water bowls,
and covered all crates with a sheet.
The rest of the people stayed at
the shelter and put cats into carriers and loaded the trucks
with them. Dogs were put into their crates, covered, and
transported in them. Dogs were all walked by the trained
volunteers and staff before being loaded.
Once the dogs arrived at the arena, they were taken out of their
crate, walked a little inside the loading area while food and
water bowls were put into their crates, and then placed back in
their crates. Cats were taken from their carriers and put into
their crates. The Hoffberger moving service trucks and the other
trucks went back and forth getting animals.
Animal Control transported the 13
bite case dogs to the hospital.
The two part time shelter
veterinarians, Dr. Mammato and Dr. Sollini monitored the
animals, and administered the medications for those that were on
meds. A few cats became stressed and were treated as needed.
The entire transport and set up
took only 2 ½ hours!
Once everyone was set up we sent
all non-trained volunteers home. All trained volunteers
continued to monitor the cats, change litter pans as needed, and
walk the dogs in the arena. By 1 pm the storm was close and all
but six staff members were sent home. Shortly after, there were
restrictions placed on driving by the City. The six staff
members remained with the animals overnight, as planned. They
continued to monitor and walk animals and send hourly updates
On Tuesday we again communicated
with volunteers via social media and with our staff via phones
about the return to the shelter. We had dozens of people show up
at the arena to assist, and we returned all animals to the
shelter in just 2 ½ hours.”
Dr. Jack Casper, MDA/MEMA, was kept
updated during the evacuation process in case any State assets
may have been needed.
Dr. Patricia Klein,VMAT 2 Commander,
was also kept in the informational loop in case any additional
veterinary veterinary technical support may have been required.
It was a job well done by BARCS
staff and volunteers and all who supported the BARCS evacuation
as well as those who support animal health and welfare and
public health in general on a daily basis.