The Humane Society of the United States research shows that 67% of households have at least 2.5 companion animals. And although there are organizations that respond to help people and animal welfare organizations that assist after large-scale natural disasters, there is a huge gap in emergency services at the everyday residential level when it comes to pets in disasters.
Historically, it has not been the job of the first responders to prioritize pets over people. That’s why in 2011, an emergency response organization of firefighters was founded in Philadelphia, whose sole purpose it was to respond to the scene of residential fires and disasters and provide emergency assistance to families with pets affected. Red Paw Emergency Relief Team worked in conjunction with the fire department, the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) of the City of Philadelphia and other response organizations, like Licenses & Inspections (L&I) to provide search & rescue for pets unaccounted for, emergency medical care on-scene, emergency transport for pets injured and additional resources for families with pets displaced by a fire or disaster in their home.
Red Paw Emergency Relief Team has been filling the gap in services in Philly for the last nine and a half years. Our argument is that this service is needed in all cities across the country. The goal is to put the research we have gathered into an easily accessible tool that can be presented to Fire Departments and Emergency Management Agencies in other cities and make a case for integration of these services.
Red Paw's belief is that in order to sustain and replicate this model, the services need to be integrated into the community's fire department by training and assigning members to provide these services on scene of the “everyday disasters”.
With nine and a half years of data, Red Paw has the numbers to prove success, impact and need. Red Paw was filling that gap in Philadelphia, assisting 1000 pets a year, but that still leaves the vast majority of the country and around 499,650 pets a year without assistance. The goal is for Red Paw’s model in Philadelphia to benefit other cities, first responders, residents and family’s with pets nationally in the future.
Using our toolkit, you can show graphics on fire and companion animal statistics, give clear and concise details on services, provide pictures of real-world saves, along with pictures of families and pets assisted.
By providing a visual presentation of the research, along with concrete evidence of the success the organization has had in the City of Philadelphia will provide a strong quantitative and qualitative case to potential stakeholders.
The Humane Society of the United States. (2015)
On average there are 5-6 residential fires a day in Philadelphia County, according to Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel. And, that’s just fires, that does not include building collapses, gas leaks, water main breaks, etc., those things also displace people and pets daily at the residential level. The Humane Society of the United States states that on average 67% of households have pets. This leaves a huge gap in emergency services at the everyday residential level when it comes to pets in disasters. Even though this gap exists, it’s important to acknowledge the great strides that have been made to include companion pets in evacuation and sheltering plans at the federal, state and local levels in the past decade. For example, in 2006, the Philadelphia County Animal Response Team (PCART) was formed. This group falls under the PennsylvaniaState Animal Response Team (PASART). PASART is modeled after a similar organization in North Carolina that was founded after Hurricane Floyd, during which more than 3 million domestic and farm animals were affected. Philadelphia formed PCART shortly after Katrina, due largely to the PETS Act. PCART’s mission is to work in conjunction with the Office of Emergency Management and the Red Cross to provide pet friendly co-located shelters during large-scale evacuations in Philadelphia. Which it has done successfully in the City during Hurricane Irene and Hurricane Sandy. The issue with the SART/CART model, in my opinion, is the same issue as the PETS Act, they both only address large-scale disasters involving pets. Two specific incidents were essentially the catalyst for the founding of Red Paw, a specialized team of responders deployed specifically for pets affected by the “everyday disasters” in Philadelphia; A two-alarm fire in an apt building in Center City in 2007 resulted in the death of two dogs and a cat because there was not a procedure in place to help them. The owners were very worried and agitated because they had no information about their pets, and no one was helping them. A few hours after the fire was placed under control fire fighters finally got the dogs out of the building. The owners were carrying the dogs in their arms screaming for help, but no one was there to help them. An off-duty firefighter and Red Cross responder grabbed a stretcher and oxygen from a medic and ran the two dogs to a personal vehicle and rushed them to Penn Veterinary Hospital where they later died. The owners found their cat the next day also deceased in their apartment. The second incident occurred in January 2011. During a three-alarm fire at a 90-unit apartment complex in West Philly, cats were being taken out of the building in laundry baskets and boxes with no accountability or evaluation for vet care. There were dozens of cats missing and trapped in the building for weeks afterwards because there wasn’t a designated procedure or trained team in place to get them out. The last cat unaccounted for was found alive 45 days after the fire. According to an article in the Journal of Emergency Medical Services (JEMS), pets are just as susceptible to injury during a house fire as humans. Responders see it time and time again on the fire ground. Prior to Red Paw’s services, the Red Cross and Salvation Army would be on-scene to assist the people, the fire department and medics were there to get people out and deal with injuries, but no one was there to take care of the other part of the family, the pets. Residents who had just lost everything were being forced to leave their pets, possibly injured in the fire dwelling or having to let them loose on the street or take them to a shelter. Per FEMA’s Animals in Disasters, Module A, Unit 2, there are hundreds of reports of pet owners being injured or killed attempting to rescue their animals from burning or flooded houses. One example is a Red Paw client who got himself and his one dog out of his second-floor window and then went around the back of the house and back inside to try to get his other dog out who was in the kitchen. The man ended up with second degree burns on his hands and face; the dog sadly did not survive. There was a news article about a teen in Phoenix who jumped off his school bus to rescue his dog when he noticed their house was on fire. In the article the 14-year-old teen stated: "I sleep with him, he's my sister's, but I grew up with him... he's family," These behaviors are of major concern for emergency management personnel to whom saving human life is the highest priority. There is a new school of thought emerging that animals cannot be viewed simply as property. Statistics show that more than 90 percent of pet owners consider their pets to be very or extremely important to their families. In most cities and counties when a residential fire or disaster occurs, Animal Control is called to take the animal, if it is out of the building and the owner has no other option for shelter or treatment, regardless of whether or not it is injured. Prior to Red Paw, Animal Control in Philadelphia would do a five day courtesy hold for the family, but would not treat the animal for any injuries. The hope was that a rescue would pull the animal and treat it, but then the family would lose their rights to that pet. Far from a sutible process, especially for a family that just lost everything due to a disaster in their home. An article in the Chicago Tribune about the Big Rock Fire Department’s efforts to assist pets in fires quotes Fire Marshal Javan Cross as saying firefighters "will not put people at risk for the sake of those pets.” “They will give it their best shot at rescuing them”. Therein lies the problem. For example, throughout the ten-month long Philadelphia Fire Academy pets are not addressed once during training. While out in the field firefighter’s never train and rarely discuss what to do if they come across a pet in a fire. There is no formal training to educate first responders on how animals will act during a residential fire or a disaster in their home and there is no unified SOP for Fire Departments and Emergency Management Agencies on how to handle pets in residential fires or disasters. The FEMA Module states, Emergency management officials and animal-care communities should work together to define plans for the care of animals and their owners in disasters. Furthermore, that plans should respect the concerns of animal owners and the concerns of persons that do not own animals or have medical or psychological reasons to distance themselves from animals. Noëlle Foizen, Interim Director for the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management, stated in an article for the Christian Science Monitor that, “Red Paw services fill a huge response gap for Philadelphia. Data shows that people are less likely to evacuate if they cannot take their pets....” The services, she says, provides victims of a fire or other disaster with peace of mind. Foizen explain that, “Prior to Red Paw’s founding there were times that I would be at [the scene of an emergency] supporting evacuees and trying to hold a cat in my arms or a dog by the collar. Thankfully a designated and trained Red Paw responder brings not only the expert skill set of animal care and search and rescue, but also ... a huge amount of emotional support.”Understandably and historically, it’s not been the job of the first responders to prioritize pets over people. The argument is that’s where trained and designated firefighters can come in to fill the gap. Considering that according to a National Institutes of Health publication in 2015, there is no uniformity in who has the authority to care for pets that are free of notifiable diseases in natural disasters. In part because most state animal welfare laws have often been written piecemeal over decades, it’s not surprising, that state and local laws have no comprehensive objectives or set a uniform tone on expected standards of care or enforcement. Prior to Red Paw, there was no entity in the City of Philadelphia that would be dispatched for residential fires and disasters, whose primary function on-scene was to assist with and advocate for families with pets injured, missing and/or displadced. Currently, Red Paw is the only organziation in the country writtien into a City’s Emergency Response Plan with certified responders who are designated to do this. The FEMA Module also states that plans that deal with animals are important to emergency management officials because many rescue workers will encounter animals while working in disasters. During the response, rescue workers may be pleased to find animals, but become concerned about animal care as they return to their tasks. Thus, their rescue efforts may be delayed or compromised because of their concern for the well-being of animals. FEMAs data shows that there is evidence out there that some responder’s views are changing on the importance response efforts of pets on fire and disaster scenes. Although, even with a background as a Philadelphia Fire Fighter and the support of the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Emergency Management, making these services sustainable and replicable has been an uphill battle. For years Red Paw struggled to get the firefighters from the Philadelphia Fire Department to call when pets are on-scene, or to even ask the residents if they have pets. To work around that issue, Red Paw was provided text alerts from the PFD’s Fire Communnication Center (FCC), to a Red Paw dispatcher who sent a Red Paw responder to every fire scene. This instantly provided evidance that more than half of the fires being dispatched had families with pets affected on-scene. Red Paw has at least one responder on-call 24/7/365. All Red Paw responders were firefighters. This brings up one last hurdle when it comes to a response organization of this type. It is our mindset that a volunteer run, stand-alone organization, especially when you are working alongside the Fire Departments, Emergency Management Agencies and other paid professionals, is not sustainable. Especially, if sustainability and replication is going to happen, just ask the struggling volunteer fire departments around the country. Red Paw did try relying on volunteers to respond early on, but quickly saw that it was a model that was not efficient or effective. Many of the volunteers had the best intentions but did not have the right mentality or skill set. It could be dangerous and counterproductive to send unqualified volunteers to residential fire or disaster scenes, especially to do search and rescue for stressed or injured animals, which makes it an unsustainable model. Red Paw then went to a paid responder model equipped with two response vehicles, stocked with oxygen, pet oxygen masks, bunker gear, etc. According to Sam Phillips, former Director of the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management (OEM) in an article published on Bustle.com, “Every city needs a Red Paw to fill a much-needed gap in disaster services.” And, that’s the plan. With nine and a half years of data, Red Paw has the numbers and data to prove need and success. Red Paw services filled that gap in Philadelphia for almost a decade but that still left a vast majority of the country and around 499,650 pets a year without assistance. The goal is for Red Paw’s model in Philadelphia to benefit other cities, first responders, residents and pets nationally by integrating our proven services into fire departments around the country, with minimal training and relatively cost effective methods.Appendix ARed Paw Case Studies· Rita Grace Apt Bldg, 8100 Academy Rd, March, 2015 “Nothing Could Have Survived”: 2 cats found alive, 5 cats found deceased (1 in the basement, 4 on 2nd floor delta), 4 cats on the top floor presumed dead, 1 dog on the basement floor presumed dead. 6 cats, 3 dogs, 2 snakes, 1 rabbit got out w/owners. 24 pets affected in total.· E. Sterner & Emerald Sts, March, 2015. “Presumed Dead”: 1 dog & cat found alive under ruble. 3 pets affected in total.· 3700 N. Franklin St, November 2014. “Pets ran away”: 2 dogs found alive under debris.· Harrowgate & Hunting Park Ave, July, 2015. “There are no pets inside”: 1 dog found alive under debris.· 5200 N. Broad Street, May, 2016. “We looked, they aren’t in there”: 2 cats & 6 kittens found alive inside walls and under beds.ReferencesAmerican Kennel Club (2009). July 15 Declared National Pet Fire Safety Day. Retrieved fromhttp://www.akc.org/press-center/press-releases/july-15-declared-national-pet-fire-safety-day-to-help-protect-pets-fro/Crosby D., (30 Nov 2016). Saving Pets in Peril Part of the Job for Firefighters. Chicago Tribune.Retrieved fromhttp://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/aurora-beacon-news/opinion/ct-abn-crosby-animals-fires-st-1130-20161130-column.htmlFederal Emergency Management Agency (2014). U.S. Fire Statistics (Residential Fires).Retrieved fromhttps://www.usfa.fema.gov/data/statistics/Griesser G. C., (2016 Nov 28). EMS Assessment and Treatment of Dogs and Cats Involved in Fires, Journal of Emergency Medical Services. volume 41 (issue 12). Retrieved fromhttp://www.jems.com/articles/print/volume-41/issue-12/features/ems-assessment-and-treatment-of-dogs-and-cats-involved-in-firesHeath S., & Linnabary R., (2015 Mar 25). Challenges of Managing Animals in Disasters in the U.S., 173–192. Retrieved fromhttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4494405/Kolakowski J., (2016 April 11). Red Paw Emergency Relief Team: Volunteers of the Week.Retrieved fromhttps://beta.phila.gov/posts/oem/2016-04-11-red-paw-emergency-relief-team-volunteers-of-the-week/National Fire Protection Association (2015). News & Research (Fire Statistics).Retrieved fromhttp://www.nfpa.org/news-and-research/fire-statistics-and-reports/fire-statisticsRoman A., (2016, Dec 2). Teen Jumps Off School Bus to Save Dog from Phoenix House Fire. Retrieved from http://www.fox29.com/news/221170739-storyRosen S., (2016, Dec 23). When Disaster Strikes, Who Cares for the Animals? Bustle. Retrieved fromhttps://www.bustle.com/articles/195262Thiel A., (2016, Dec 22). Personal interview.United States Congress (2006) H.R.3858 Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006.Retrieved fromhttps://www.congress.gov/bill/109th-congress/house-bill/03858
It has always been our belief that a successful organization should address two questions in practice: Why does the organization exist? And how can we achieve sustainability in order to make this a replicable model? Effectively addressing the first question informs our mission and determines strategic goals. The second shapes our model and determines how we deliver our services. We go at these questions with two perspectives in mind: the citizens we assist and financial sustainability.
1) Client Perspective: “Very early Sunday morning of Memorial Day weekend, I stood on the sidewalk in my robe, slippers and little else. I watched as my life was alternately consumed by fire and pounded by a river of water. As I watched, a man with firefighter gear approached me and asked if I had a pet. I was terrified by what news he might be about to tell me. When asked to describe my cat, all I could verbalize was, "He's fat." He reaches his arms out wide and said, is he about this big? When I nodded, he said, "he's safe. I have him. Would you like to see him?" Red Paw Client – 2-alarm fire May 2017. The man in the firefighter gear is a Red Paw Responder, he is also a Philadelphia Firefighter. Thanks to Red Paw’s partnership with the Philadelphia Fire Department and the City of Philadelphia, and his dedication, training and credentials, he was able to enter the fire dwelling, search for and discover a soaking wet and soot covered, but otherwise okay, cat named “Fat Abner” hiding in a pile of debris in the resident’s apartment. More recently, a 4-alarm fire in Old City Philadelphia displaced 28 pets and more than 70 residents. Our trained responders spent 7 hours that morning searching and pulling pets out of the rubble, packing supply kits and providing resources to 24 families. All surviving pets (28) went with their families to pet friendly hotels or relatives’. This is another example of the success of the services Red Paw has does daily.
2) Organizational Sustainability: Our model worked because it was simple, cost effective and necessary. But we realized after a few years that the model, as it existed, was not sustainable. Now, that may seem contradictory in terms of simple and cost effective, however, in nearly a decade, we have continued to assess and make the necessary changes to the model with the knowledge and vision that every city needs and should have these services incorporated into their response plans. Here’s the catch, although we are written into Philadelphia’s Emergency Response Plan in 2013, we have learned that there is only one path to continue providing services to the residents of this city (65% of 1.6 million people).
In Philadelphia, we were dispatched through the Fire Communication Center, we worked with the Fire Marshal and alongside the PFDs Community Action Teams, to assist residents with pets.
In the past 10 years, Red Paw has assisted nearly 10,000 animals in Philadelphia County alone. We have answered the question of need but to ensure that trained firefighters can be on-call for residents, 24/7, 365 days a year, sustainability and replication is key.
We have remained steadfast in our commitment to make this a replicable model for the rest of the country. And we believe after ten years of experience that the only way to do that is to have these services implemented into the fire department with trained and designated members.
Currently, Animal Control receives funding from the City for some of the services that Red Paw has provided, however, their ACO’s are not trained firefighters and are unable to perform most duties. ACO’s perform a very specific function, to assist with stray and dangerous animals and we know through experience that the fire department members sometimes need their support. Also, through our experience we know that they cannot perform the specialty duties of a Red Paw Responder, who are firefighters. Throughout our many years of strategic planning, brainstorming sessions, meetings, pitches, proposals and time invested in following up on the multitude of suggestions offered to us, no funding from that contract has been committed to our services. Red Paw services and Animal Control’s roles are mutually exclusive and should necessarily be treated as such. Funding for one does not mean funding for the other. Red Paw’s responders performed a very specific function. And we know from experience that these services directly supported members on-scene more often than the ACO’s. Our responders perform a unique function that is not strictly animal centric. Even though our responders are handling residents with companion animals they are uniquely qualified to go inside fire dwellings and do S&R because they are firefighters. A point that cannot be lost on current administrations, City Council Members and public safety officials. A point that is crucial to our sustainability.
As we look to replicate our model, we are tasked with communicating that crucial piece at every turn. The uniqueness of our services and the assumption that we are should be a stand-alone organization by the city/FD prevents these crucial services from sustainability and replication. So, when we look at how these services can be replicable and sustainable, the answer is that we must change the thinking in the fire service so that it takes into consideration more than half of their population during planning, training and response.
For this to be the model that other cities look to replicate, it needs to be a part of the fire department.
That path was not so obvious until the formation and activation of the Community Action Teams. PFD takes on response duties.
Expand PFD Community Action Team services:
+one hour +additional funding from PFDF Foundation for pet care kits
1) Member devoted to assessing pet needs/scene
2) Collect & coordinate residents with pets/needs
3) Address needs
· Address, # of pets, services needed
a. Search & Rescue
· Connect with services needed:
b. Temp housing
Supplies (PFDF collects additional funding for pet care kits)
· If a. coordinate with FM, Chief, IC, and/or coordinate with L&I
· If b. coordinate neighbor, family, friend, Pet Friendly Hotel, Insurance Agent, Red Cross
· If c. family, friend, Uber (*Pet-friendly transport)