Do you remember where you were in October 2007? If you were anything like me, you were glued to the TV watching areas around us burning up and hoping it did not spread to the Ortega. As San Diego was going up in flames, at the riding park east of San Juan a small group of spontaneous volunteers were taking care of about 700 horses evacuated from the San Diego area. If the Ortega went up today and you were given the warning to evacuate, what is your plan? What about your horses? Do you know where to take your equine? Do you have a trailer to transport them or are you going to need transport help? Do you know where to find that help???
After the 2007 crisis was over, the Large Animal Response Team (LART) of San Juan Capistrano was formed. Originally, LART was connected with CERT and LART members had to train in triage, search and rescue, fire suppression and incident command. LART is now a stand-alone group and experienced equestrians can become LART qualified simply by attending a two part training course. The training course is only offered once a year, so if you miss this opportunity, you will have to wait until next year.
To be certified to respond to emergencies throughout Orange County, you must attend and pass both classroom and hands on training. Classroom training will be on Wednesday, October 23rd at San Juan Capistrano City Hall. Check-in starts at 5:30 and pizza will be provided by the San Juan Capistrano Equestrian Coalition. Photos will be taken at this time for the LART ID cards. Training will be from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Hands on training will take place on Sunday, October 27th at the Ortega Equestrian Center from 8 a.m. to Noon. After successful completion of both courses, you will be sworn in as a disaster worker and receive your photo ID. To sign-up for this training or for additional information contact Marc Hedgpeth at firstname.lastname@example.org or Gretchen Verbeerst at email@example.com.
I am both a member of CERT and LART. I personally would report to CERT first to do what I could to help, but my CERT job is for more immediate issues only. After the situation has stabilized, I could find myself at loose ends. I would much rather be working than sitting at home and watching the aftermath on TV, so I trained for LART. If horses are evacuated to San Juan, that is because officials think we are in a safe zone and are not going to have to evacuate ourselves. It may be a while until the animals can be moved back home, so LART will need longer term help. If I can be there to assist with the horses, that means their owners can focus on their families and their immediate needs, knowing their horses are in good hands. It is my little way of giving back to the community. I passed the LART training and try to do as many of the drills as possible so that I am prepared to do what I can to help when (not if) I am activated.I highly recommend the LART training, especially if you are a horse owner. It will give you the inside information should you need to bring your horses to one of our evacuation points and hopefully help ease your mind if you have to partake of our hospitality since you will already be aware of how the center will work. If you are anything like me, it will also give you some points to ponder and ways to better prepare for emergencies such as fires.
Speaking of fires, did you know that October is Fire Safety Month? The time of year to review your fire safety plans. Do you have fire extinguishers and are they ready-for-action? If not, time to pick up a couple. Are your smoke detectors over 8 years old? If so, time to think about replacing! Does your family have a plan for exiting your house in case of a fire and meeting at a designated location? If so, practice it. If not, time to put one in place. Are you prepared to evacuate your animals on a moment’s notice? In addition to paperwork to prove shots are up-to-date, now is the time to make sure they have microchips, make sure you have extra of any special diet foods or meds they may need and maybe a familiar blankie/toy close at hand to make their ordeal a little easier to handle. And if you have horses, it’s great time to update their evacuation plans. Do not have one? The time to prepare it is now, not when the fire is one street over and you have minutes to get out. Even if you have an hour, it is still going to be hard. The more you have prepared ahead of time, the more orderly your exodus and the less likely you are to forget something important/irreplaceable. If you need help with your plans, joining LART will give you a lot of resources and food for thought.