Frequently Asked Questions
The Rhode Island Disaster Animal Response Team (RIDART) is a public/private/volunteer partnership to prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergencies affecting animals in Rhode Island. The team is composed of volunteers who work under the direction of the RI State Veterinarian.
Disasters of many kinds – fires, chemical spills, storms, etc. – can endanger wildlife, livestock, pets, and their owners. Professional public safety officers are always in charge of the response, but they often need volunteers to help. RIDART is their main State resource for help with animals.
For the sake of security, only properly enrolled and activated RIDART volunteers will be allowed to participate in emergency operations.
Among the services that RIDART volunteers can provide is helping their neighbors with evacuation, temporary sheltering, and rescue of their pets. That need is apt to be most acute in Rhode Island when hurricanes threaten coastal communities. Thousands of households may require evacuation and sheltering. RIDART volunteers can also support care for oiled birds and down or lost horses.
By signing up, RIDART volunteers are not only helping protect animals but also increasing the overall readiness and resilience of their communities.
No. RIDART is a volunteer organization. When getting prepared or activated, the only compensation is satisfaction in serving animals and their owners in your State and community.
Volunteers must have a clear criminal record, be at least 18 years of age, and be ready to commit to helping, as best they can, in an emergency.
To sign up, you need only complete and submit a 3-page form: An Application, which includes agreeing to a background check and a pledge to adhere to the RIDART Code of Conduct.
Required commitments beyond the sign-up are modest. All volunteers must gain certification in ICS and NIMS (the Incident Command and National Incident Management Systems). FEMA makes that certification available for free through on-line independent study. The courses are called "IS-100" and "IS-700."
Beyond that, we ask only that you take advantage of training opportunities and contribute time as best you can. To keep your training fresh, we urge you to get involved in a nearby animal shelter, city pound, or humane organization.
Emergencies can be stressful, uncomfortable or worse for just about everyone affected. Volunteers who handle other people's pets are vulnerable to getting soiled, scratched, kicked, or bitten, and the pets themselves as well as their owners can get surly. Helping them is also apt to be very satisfying, but surely not 100% of the time. That is among the reasons that background checks, training, up-to-date immunizations, supervision, and diligence toward personal safety are all essential.
RIDART volunteers are strongly urged both to make safety their top priority and to maintain their own health insurance. For a particular incident or a particular role, emergency response officials may require it.
While RIDART volunteers train for or respond to a declared disaster, State law provides some protection from liability and compensation for death or injury. Alas, that protection and compensation are limited. For example, proper authorization for the training and activation, due diligence, and good faith are required, and compensation is no more or less than "like manner as state employees." For this reason, volunteers are encouraged to confirm that a State mission has been assigned or a State disaster has been declared when they activate.
Relevant RI statues are: Title 30, Military Affairs and Defense Chapter 30-15, Emergency Management, Section 30-15-15 and Title 28, Labor and Labor Relations, Chapter 28-31, Workers' Compensation – State and Municipal Employees, Section 28-31-12. See also the slides for Legal Issues for Animal Response Team Volunteers, a presentation to the New England State Animal Response Team Conference by Colin Zick,on December 10, 2008.
People who are under 18 years of age, who have a felony conviction, or whose health is at-risk are ineligible to volunteer for RIDART. Beyond that, anyone who is willing and able to serve will be welcome.
Volunteers and those who rely on them deserve to know that RIDART members have proven dependable. RIDART reserves the right to deny membership to applicants whose official record (arrests, violations of vehicle or vessel operator licenses, and outstanding warrants) raises doubts, especially if that record includes a felony, substance abuse, violence, or neglect of people or animals. This review is conducted with the help of the Office the RI Attorney General and the Division of Law Enforcement in the RI Department of Environmental Management. A clear record helps ensure that RIDART volunteers can be trusted.
In an emergency, people with animal-care expertise are essential, but so is an even larger number of people with varied skills. Readiness and response are truly team efforts. Both specialists and ordinary, caring citizens can contribute. Training in handling a wide array of challenges is offered throughout the year, with details posted on the website calendar.
RIDART volunteers should respond when (and only when) requested by the State Veterinarian or his/her designee. The detailed application helps us match volunteers' abilities with incident requirements and gives us several ways to contact you.
When you are notified that the State Veterinarian has activated RIDART, you will also be told where to report and be assigned duties, as outlined in emergency plans. (See, for example, the Rhode Island Animal Disaster / Animal Care Care Plan)
To assure that emergency response is as orderly and effective as possible, RIDART volunteers – like all other emergency responders – are subject to unified incident command, working within prescribed roles in a clear, single line of authority (rather than through all the other roles and lines of authority that we each might bring from our jobs or other affiliations). That principle is, in fact, required by local, state, and federal law as well as the RIDART Code of Conduct.
In an emergency, your first responsibility is to take care of yourself and second, the people and animals who depend on you. So, for example, if you live in an area that is flood-prone and a hurricane is approaching, you should evacuate with your pets to a safe place or arrange for someone else to take care of them. Do not bring your pets with you to a shelter where you intend to work as a RIDART volunteer. For links to detailed advice, see Advice for RI Animal Owners Facing a Disaster.
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