GEORGE NEWS - Fire and flooding aren't problems that we associate with the SPCA, but animals are often severely affected when they are unable to escape.
To better prepare them for natural disasters like fires and floods, the Garden Route SPCA (GRSPCA) held a volunteer disaster response training meeting on Saturday 18 January.
The Knysna fires of 2017 and the Outeniqua Mountain blazes of 2018 saw the GRSPCA work alongside the emergency services and fellow animal welfare organisations.
Inspectors, staff and volunteers rescued hundreds of animals.
During the meeting, branch coordinator of GRSPCA Mossel Bay, Gerda Reynders, explained the horrific impact that fires have on animals.
She detailed the role of SPCA inspectors, discussed the equipment needed and presented emergency kits that will be distributed to volunteers in such an event. Volunteers will be assigned to an inspector and will stay with the team at all times for their own security.
"You love animals, but your first priority must always be your own safety," said Gee Swart of an international emergency disaster response group. He urged the volunteers not to strain emergency and rescue services by putting themselves in danger, to be mindful not to block escape routes with their vehicles, and to take cues only from SPCA disaster management and emergency services, not from social media reports, which are sometimes inaccurate.
Swart shared valuable insights on how fires move and behave, and talked about how George's "four-seasons-in-one day" weather can take the unwary by surprise, with life-threatening consequences.
The GRSPCA will continue to hone its disaster response. It has established a WhatsApp group for volunteers who attended the meeting and who will be among its first responders.
"We had tremendous support from the community in 2017 and 2018," said GRSPCA manager Salomé Bruyns. "In fact, we had so much support that, in the end, we had to turn volunteers away. Next time, we want to make sure that we are properly prepared, and make sure we can use that support effectively. We all pray that the fires will spare us, but if they come, we are ready to act as leaders."
Anyone who wants to get involved with this initiative is welcome to contact the SPCA on 082 378 7384.
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