Disaster Preparedness

I know you don't want to think about this stuff, but we live in a very volatile environment, on planet that is forever going through meteorological and geological changes, and "stuff" happens.

Dr. Bart is one of Southern California's most renowned Avian specialist and his comments here are most welcomed.
Barton C. Huber, D.V.M.
"Dr. Bart"
Corona, Ca.
(909) 222-4053


Natural disasters are a fact of life regardless of where you live. The recent fires and earthquakes in southern California illustrate how many of us are ill-prepared for such disasters. The two biggest problems in southern California are the fire dangers and threat of earthquake but we may also experience floods, high winds, and other weather related problems. The following is a guide you can use to minimize your losses in the event of a major (or minor) disaster. The cost of these repairs or additions will pay for themselves in the event you need to use them!
Power Failure
Back-up power is necessary to maintain function of incubators, brooders and other necessary equipment. If you live on well water, you will need power to run the pump, especially if you are putting fires out. The equipment needed is as follows:
* Emergency lighting - 1) flashlights, 2)candles, 3) emergency lights that go on automatically when the power goes out such as those used in auditoriums and restaurants, 4) propane or gas camping lanterns are very handy.
* Deep cycle batteries such as those for boats and RVs they love abuse and last for a long time.
* Regular batteries - keep a fresh supply on hand for radios, flashlights, and other battery operated equipment.
* Gas powered generator - store fuel in a safe manner, check with your local fire department.
Communication
A cellular phone or CB radio will be very helpful, and may be your only source of communication with the "outside" world. If you have a ham radio, or know some one with one, this can also be a life save. Many times, ham radios are the only ones that may get through if you are really in the boonies.
Water
Necessary for human/animal consumption and for putting out fires.
* Potable (drinkable) water - 1) Purchase and store large quantities from the market. 2) Fill empty Sparkletts-type jugs with drinkable water, add 10 drops of chlorine bleach per gallon (may taste funny but needed to prohibit bacterial growth, especially Pseudomanas). These should be emptied and refilled two to three times a year depending on your local water. 3) Storage tanks for large quantities, check your yellow pages under water storage tanks. Can use underground with pump (make sure pump can be run with generator or battery) or above ground with gravity delivery. Check with your insurance agent, in some areas, above ground water storage tanks with several thousand gallon capacity and gravity delivery may lower your fire insurance premium. This could pay for the tank. 4) Well water is great. Make sure you have a back-up delivery system in case of power failure. You will need to be able to filter the water in case of contamination. This is a problem with earthquakes and floods. 5) Municipal supply - need to be able to filter in case of contamination, also. May experience pressure drops due to heavy usage or broken lines.
* Filter systems (check Consumer Report!) come in many sizes, portable or permanent, and a variety of prices. It is important to remember "you get what you pay for." Do your research carefully. 1) Reverse osmosis removes dissolved toxins, chlorine, giardia and Cryptosporidia cysts, many bacteria, etc. Basically produces deionized water. This method is very wasteful, it takes about 2 gallons of water to make one, if you are on a limited supply, this may be a problem. 2) Pressed carbon. Get one that removes cysts and lead, not all of them do! Removes dissolved toxins, heavy metals (check), cysts (check), leaves minerals. This method does not remove nitrates and nitrites.
* Pipes/delivery system. 1) PVC is inexpensive but melts and can absorb toxins when buried. It emits a deadly gas when heated or melted, this is why you should never run hot water through PVC. 2) Copper is good but expensive relative to PVC, make sure the welds (sweats) contain no lead.. 3) Many of us use sprinklers to cool our aviaries during the warmer months. The problem is the pressure or output of these misters is probably not going to put out a fire. Placing fire sprinklers in the line should take care of this problem. If you already have sprinklers/misters and do not want to remove these lines, you could add a copper line along side these for fire purposes. 4) Make sure you have a way to deliver water when the power is out. You should have a pump that can be run by a generator or battery.
* If there is smoke present from close by fires and your place is not on fire, it is important to remember to run your sprinklers to minimize the amount of smoke in the air, keep the air (and your birds) cooler, and it will also make your place damp and more difficult to burn.
Food
* Human - plenty of literature on this.
* Bird/animal - most of us buy food in bulk and usually have plenty on hand. 1) The food should be stored in a clean, dry, cool place. If fire sprinklers are used, they should be on top of your storage structure, not inside! Wet food is a great place for bacteria, mold, and other problems to brew. An insulated metal shed would be good. 2) seed or pellets will suffice I a crisis. Your birds will be fine without their fruits and veggies for a few days (many birds have lived for quite a few years without proper supplements but I would not recommend trying this!). 3) Your birds should receive vitamins at all times, and, depending on the type of birds you keep or if it is breeding season, calcium as well. Birds on a good nutritional plain will do better under stressful conditions. Micropulverized vitamins are good because they stick to dry as well as wet foods and your birds will get their supplements as they eat! 4) Handfeeding formula should also be kept on hand to feed babies as well as sick or injured birds. 5)Have propane or other camping stoves available to prepare formulas or boil water.
Animal Removal
* Have enough carriers to evacuate all your birds! 1) Sectioned-off macaw carriers can carry many birds at once. 2) Nest boxes can be great carriers, many birds run to their nest box in a crisis. If you have quick release latches on the outside of your and a way to cover the entrance, you now have an instant carrier and they will be paired up! 3) Pillow cases work well for short trips and are easily stored. Caution: your birds may chew through these so be careful.
* Be able to get into your flights easily. Removable panels, especially on the underside of suspended cages, will work well.
Animal Identification
[U1] * Microchipping is the method of choice for this. Bands are not safe for your birds' legs and not always easily read. You do not need to be spending valuable lifesaving time marking cages and worrying about who's who. 1) This will make evacuation quicker, therefore saving more lives. 2) If your birds need veterinary care, the veterinarian will not have to worry about who's who until after treatments are complete. If the vet is treating 25 birds at once, taking the time to mark cages with names and tracking who's who may cost lives! If the birds are microchipped, the identification can be done after all the patients are stabilized. 3) You will not have to worry about what bird goes with which one as you either place them back in their regular cages or new ones. Again, at the evacuation, you can place more birds in a given carrier.
* Microchipping is inexpensive. If the time you save in evacuation or treatment saves the life of one valuable breeder, it will have paid for many birds to be microchipped.
Disease Prevention
Yearly flock disease prevention, cultures, blood tests, etc. are important in maintaining the health and breeding value of your flock. In the time of crisis, your birds will be under tremendous stress, the last thing you need is for them to break with an infection.
Plan Ahead
Know your evacuation route. Do no panic!! Is your veterinarian prepared for major emergencies or disasters? Are they experienced with this? Are you ready for "the big one?" An once of prevention is worth a pound of cure is an understatement when it comes to losing your bird collection. Some of the precautions mentioned here may seem expensive but you have to consider the alternatives. Many breeders and pet owners have learned this the hard way in southern California with the earthquakes of June 1992 and February 1994, and the fires of October 1993. Those in Florida suffered the wrath of Hurricane Andrew in August 1992. Those who were prepared suffered much less damage than those who were not.
Did you know that aviculturist are not considered a business by the government, at least when it comes to applying for aid after a disaster? Of course, they are more than happy to collect your taxes from your business! If you feel the laws need to be changed, contact your local, state and federal representatives and voice your opinion. If you belong to a club, your club should submit a petition. There is power in numbers! Also, if you do not like who's making the laws, consider this when you vote. If you do not vote, you have no room (or right) to complain!
Another option is to file your taxes as a farm, claim agricultural deductions, show profit two out of every five years, and participate in the USDA Census. Check with your accountant and the specific government agencies involved with relief and see what classification you would need to be eligible for relief. If you act like a "farmer", then the government may give you the same rights as a farmer.