The following article was published in a local Lehigh Valley publication, The Upper Macungie Patch. It is about the Lehigh Valley CART team.
Thought I would share this with everyone so that others are aware that animals are also being helped in emergency situations. Pet owners no longer need to worry about their pets when an emergency arises. They will be taken care of.
Lehigh Valley CART is Ready, Willing and Able to Help
Local animal response team is well prepared.
•By Kathleen S. Rembisz
They’ve been deployed to Joplin, Mo. following the recent tornado that devastated the area. Some members are currently on a deployment in North Dakota as a result of the flooding. Their help was even needed following the gas explosion in Allentown.
They are the members of the Lehigh Valley County Animal Response Team (CART), and they assist those who used to be the forgotten victims in emergency situations—the animals.
According to Donna Lagomarsino, a chief officer of Lehigh Valley CART, the main reason most individuals refuse to leave their homes in the event of an emergency or disaster is concern about their pets.
“People are afraid they’ll never see their pets again,” Lagomarsino explained.
Thanks to CART, residents of Northampton and Lehigh counties now have a place where their pets can safely go in a crisis situation. Lagomarsino assures owners their pets will not be adopted by other families or euthanized.
“We have a resource of people who have offered buildings, barns, kennels and warehouses to serve as temporary housing for animals,” Lagomarsino pointed out.
Lehigh Valley CART serves the area through the Pennsylvania State Animal Response Team (PSART). It has been in existence for approximately five years.
Developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the program involves the coordinated efforts of government, corporate and animal organizations. According to Lagomarsino, the program was put into effect following Hurricane Katrina when President Bush signed into law the need for an emergency preparedness plan in each state.
Like so many individuals who felt helpless watching the coverage of Katrina, Lagomarsino felt the need to help.
“I saw a small notice in the newspaper about an upcoming meeting to assemble an animal response team and I went,” she said.
Lagomarsino and her husband Lee, both full-time educators, have been CART members ever since.
Members of the team have a variety of backgrounds, from firefighters and teachers to retired individuals and vet techs. But, their desire to help animals and to make a difference is a common denominator.
Regardless of their individual backgrounds and previous training, volunteers must earn certifications in areas such as communications and hazardous materials management, pass a background check and attend a certain number of monthly meetings to remain in good standing. Ongoing training is provided and required of volunteers.
Some individuals prefer being on the “front line,” working directly with the animals in emergency situations, while some prefer assisting behind the scenes.
“You don’t have to be in the midst of the disaster to help,” Lagomarsino said.
In fact, assistance is always needed with the intake process as well as with setting up shelters, for instance. One volunteer at a recent disaster site wanted to do laundry to ensure volunteers in the field would always have clean clothing.
To date, the team has received a few calls to assist with situations locally. The Allentown gas explosion was one instance; others have involved sheep getting loose and a wild peacock on a roadway.
But, they’re really trained and prepared for large-scale crisis situations and often receive calls for deployment to other areas through PSART.
Those willing to be deployed are housed in hotels during their stay. Typically breakfast is provided at the hotel, with lunch and dinner being provided on site. In addition, they are reimbursed for travel expenses to get to the site.
CART receives some funding from the state through grants for equipment and training. In addition, local fundraisers and donations help to defray operation costs.
Interested in learning more about CART, making a donation or volunteering? Visit www.lvcart.org or www.sart.psu.edu to follow the ongoing efforts of this organization.