Two people moving a dog in a crate during an emergency response operation

Emergency Preparedness Toolkit & Resources

The Best Friends Emergency Preparedness Toolkit is geared towards shelter agencies, rescues, boarding facilities, or veterinary clinics that have been impacted by a disaster or are concerned about the impacts of a disaster, as well as shelters that are contracted by their municipality to provide support during an emergency response.

This toolkit is intended for educational purposes only and can be considered in the development of your facility’s emergency preparedness plans. The materials accessible via this link are for the sole use of the recipient and the recipient’s internal team and may not be reproduced or circulated without Best Friends Animal Society’s prior written consent.


Emergency tip sheets

Emergency Preparedness Toolkit


The toolkit provides agencies and organizations with the following:

  • Various essential planning templates, including a hazard analysis to help determine what types of threats to plan for;
  • A comprehensive, easy-to-follow workbook to help you customize the information in each plan;
  • Training links and other resources to help prepare your foster base for disasters;
  • Exercise development resources, including scenarios and formats to assist in the development of drills to keep your plans updated and fresh;
  • Resources to help recruit external partners who play critical roles in emergencies, such as veterinary care, transports, and storage facilities.
A flyer promoting the emergency preparedness toolkit

Click to view flyer in full-size and/or download

Upon completion, your organization will have comprehensive disaster plans which detail all the critical tasks and actions needed to keep employees, volunteers, and animals safe.

Reach out to the Emergency Services team at

Click the links below to view each chapter individually, or you can download the complete toolkit as a PDF in either a print-quality version or one suitable for digital use.

Download the digital version

Download the print quality version

Table of Contents

Hazard Analysis Template         
Essential Services Template         
Evacuation of Emergency Action Plan (EAP) Template         
Establishing Evacuation Order of Animals Assessment         
Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) Template         
Return to Base Checklist         
Shelter-in-Place Plan Template         
Partnership Development         
Foster Resources         
Data Collection for Reports         
Inventory Supply Forms         
Training Links         
Exercising Emergency Plans


Personal preparedness

Planning for emergencies should not be limited to your organizational facility. Ensure that you have a plan for your home, family and pets. You will struggle to support your facility and its animals during a disaster if you are worried or unsure about what is happening with your family or loved ones. The same holds true for your staff and volunteers. Encourage them each to develop personal preparedness plans so they can be ready to assist with any emergency needs during a disaster. You need to help yourself before you can help others.

Individuals who complete three or more basic actions to prepare for any type of emergency are able to recover far more quickly than those that do not. Actions can include:

  • Gathering supplies
  • Obtaining preparedness information like evacuation routes or locations of emergency shelters; and
  • Developing an emergency plan with their families ahead of any disaster.

Ask yourself:

  • Are you prepared for an emergency event that may impact you and your family?
  • Do your plans include your pets?
  • What plans do you have in place to communicate with your family in a disaster when local phone lines are inaccessible?
  • What plans do you have in place for your pets if you are unable to check on them during a disaster or get home quickly once danger has passed?

Planning responses to the types of disasters that impact your geographical location will make all the difference in how able you are to respond. Employers should strongly encourage and support staff in developing their individual preparedness plans if they are expected to stay at work to assist with any emergency needs during an emergency event. 

Workplace preparedness

Having an organizational workplace preparedness plan will help your staff understand the actions required to keep the animals, the volunteers and one another, safe, and evacuate any necessary paperwork or equipment that may be difficult to quickly replace after the disaster. Preparing your facility for any type of disaster also means determining mitigation strategies that can help lessen the impact on your operations or damage to your facility. This may involve cutting down old trees at risk of falling onto your buildings or elevating outdoor areas to minimize risk of flooding.

A workplace preparedness plan is the first step to ensure that you have thought through the needs that are likely to arise during an emergency or disaster. Implementing and sharing the final draft of the plan among your workforce is important to determine any gaps or deficiencies. Spending time to exercise or drill the steps in the plan will help pinpoint anything that may need to be revised.

A workplace plan can mean the difference between life and death for your staff and animals and is an essential part of your business operations.

Community preparedness

If your facility is ever impacted by a disaster, it is likely that your community will be as well. That may result in your organization supporting the needs of any animals in your community who become displaced. Preparing your organization in advance will allow you to support as many residents of the community as possible.

Determine your organization’s capabilities and bandwidth prior to such events and decide on the best way to support your community. That may involve temporary care of displaced owned pets or stray animals, supporting reunification efforts or providing manpower, equipment and/or supplies to the county (e.g., an emergency pet shelter). Talk with local emergency officials and animal welfare groups ahead of any disaster and determine the type of support you will offer and how you will communicate about available resources at the time.

The more detailed the plan can be, the better. Being prepared to help in a crisis will lessen the impact the disaster has on you, the animals within your community and other animal welfare organizations.

Best Friends has a forthcoming workbook that will focus on community preparedness and provide you with additional resources on how your shelter can plug into effectively supporting your community in a disaster.

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Hazard Analysis Template   

To determine what preparedness plans you need to develop, you need to understand the types of hazards most likely to impact you, your staff and your facility, as well as your community and region.

Use the Hazard Analysis Template to assess the likelihood various hazards will occur in your community. These may vary from natural disasters to man-made events. Start by using a numbered scale to rate the frequency and likelihood of occurrence for each hazard; “1” indicates the least impact/likelihood and “5” indicates the highest. For hazards that score a “3” or above, use the additional columns to rate that hazard’s impact on staff, volunteers, animals, facility/property, business operations and community (utilizing the same numbered scale).

Tally the results in the “Total” column to get a sense of the emergency planning efforts you will need and how to prioritize them. The results will also enable you to determine what type of action each hazard will require (i.e., to evacuate or to shelter in place). (Customize the analysis template to add or edit any fields you feel are necessary.)

Consider the following while completing your analysis:

• What impacts have previous disasters had on the organization?           
Has your organization experienced any of those listed hazards in the past? If so, which ones and what was the level of impact to your staff, your facility and your community? Did anything work in your favor at that time (e.g., the ability to support the community with pet resources or to coordinate efforts with other supporting organizations, etc.)? Use this historical information to help with planning efforts.

• What are the most common disasters that occur in the community, as well as the region?           
Unfortunately, some communities are magnets for recurring disasters year after year. With the climate changing, even areas that were once spared by certain disasters are finding themselves impacted. Assess the types of disasters that have occurred in your community and within your region to better identify what you need to prepare for.

• What is your organization’s level of concern regarding disasters?     
If your organization has been affected by a disaster before, you already have a high level of concern. However, if your organization was only affected indirectly (e.g., you needed to support the community’s pet needs), then you will need to assess an anticipated level of impact. Will your organization be asked to take care of the community’s pet needs again? If not, is there something else your organization can offer to support the community?

• What actions will be taken by your organization to limit the impact of a disaster?     
Will you take the necessary steps to develop preparedness plans with the assistance of appropriate team members? Once those plans are developed, will you train your teams to ensure the plan’s efficiency and effectiveness?

• What is your staff’s ability to stay on site during a disaster?           
What is the level of readiness amongst your teams of staff and volunteers? How many are able to remain during the disaster and support the response efforts needed by your organization and/or your community? What will your policy be for staff members who cannot or will not stay and support the organization’s needs?

• What are some factors that make natural disasters more dangerous to your organization?     
If your organization is designated as a displaced pet shelter during a disaster, will that put your existing animal population at risk for expedited euthanasia? How will you mitigate this risk in advance? What will the impact be to pet owners? Can you estimate owner surrender numbers based on the impact of the disaster on the human population, in order to plan for adequate resources?

• What warnings do you have in place prior to a disaster?     
Are you and your staff signed up to receive any emergency alerts from your local emergency management office or county government? Do you have similar mechanisms to communicate with staff and volunteers? If you usually only send out emails, have you considered having everyone’s mobile number readily available so that you can also send them SMS text messages for more immediate responses? 

• What is the nature of the work that you do and what is its impact on the public?           
What negative situations does your organization face when dealing with members of the public? Is there a risk of violence from any members of the public (e.g., active assailant, etc.)?

Hazard analysis template

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Essential Services Assessment Template   

To assess which day-to-day services and programs can and should be continued following a disaster, use the Essential Services Assessment template. (Customize department names as they relate to your organization.)

This template can be used in any type of disaster to help determine the emergency status of each department based on the particular event and your organization’s actions. For instance, if you must evacuate your facility, you will likely need to suspend intake and veterinary services but increase animal care and volunteer, foster and adoption programs (though the latter may shift to operating remotely). Consequently, if you must shelter in place, there is a strong likelihood that you will suspend most services and programs until the threat has subsided and you are able to return to an altered or normal operating status.

The first tab includes fields to note the maximum population of animals (dogs, cats and other) that will remain in care, both on site and in foster.

The second tab is used to determine the status of each department based on the emergency event, using information from your Hazard Analysis Template. The table asks you to indicate the minimum number of staff required to perform specific functions based on their adjusted status. Think about how staff from departments with temporarily reduced or suspended services can support departments with an increase in services. Prior to any emergency, consider what type of cross-training opportunities should be offered to staff members to ensure a seamless transition into other roles.

The same fields are available to show where volunteers might be plugged in to assist. Include which tasks and mechanisms need to be in place (e.g., volunteer manager) to support new volunteers in each department.

The final column is for outlining any modifications to day-to-day operations. For example, cancelling pre-scheduled adoption events, deliveries, transports and meetings.

This template can be revised to best meet your needs (e.g., separating each function within a department into individual lines).

Essential services assessment template

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Evacuation or Emergency Action Plan (EAP) Template   

The Evacuation or Emergency Action Plan (EAP) template can be used to develop your organization’s evacuation or emergency action plan (EAP), which details specific actions that you and your staff need to follow when vacating your facility during a variety of emergency scenarios.

In addition to actions, the EAP should provide all pertinent contact information for employees, partners and vendors who might be impacted either directly or indirectly as a result of the evacuation. Include maps with markers showing where to go for assembly or relocation upon evacuation.

Make sure to keep the EAP updated with any changes and keep copies in several locations, including near heavily trafficked secondary exits, and make sure those copies are also kept updated.

All staff and volunteers who work or spend time at your facility should have access to the EAP so they can familiarize themselves with it. This is your organization’s EAP and does not need to be shared with any other organization unless you choose to do so.

Follow the steps below to complete each section of the EAP template:


  • Add your organization’s logo at the top.
  • Change the title of the plan to your organization’s name.
  • Keep track of recent changes and versions by adding the date the plan was last revised and by whom.

Work site/location

Each organization should have an EAP for its staff, volunteers and animals. If staff or animals are in more than one location, create a separate EAP for each site and indicate the street address, city and/or state in the appropriate fields.

Primary/secondary evacuation coordinator        
Use the Evacuation Coordinator Task Description document to determine one or two points of contact for each location who will help coordinate your organization’s staff, volunteer and animal evacuations. Consider which people are most likely to be at each facility; try to select people who are not always there at the same time. Add more rows if you would like to add more evacuation coordinators (recommended for larger facilities).

Emergency phone numbers

Add your city and/or county police department’s non-emergency number, in addition to 9-1-1 and poison control.

Evacuation phone tree

This phone tree should include both internal and external individuals and companies/ services you will need to call if you must evacuate the premises. Also include members of your organization’s chain of command, any companies that provide recurring deliveries and partners that do regular transports. The purpose of this document is to have important information in one place that can be easily accessed in an emergency situation. (Remove any excess blank rows.)

Overview map of facility

This section is optional, but you may wish to add a Google photo of your facility showing surrounding streets for those who may not be as familiar with the community. You should also add a photo of the front of the facility.

Building layout

It is important to include a floor plan of your facility/building. If you do not currently have one, create a floor plan using either Word or Excel. Use symbols or colors to mark exits, fire extinguishers, utility cut-off valves if applicable, etc. Clearly indicate exit routes from common areas.

Emergency evacuation protocols

This section should provide detailed information about actions to be taken for evacuating. It also highlights the locations of critical assembly and relocation areas.

Evacuation assembly area(s)

Identify two or three appropriate staff assembly points near the facility but far enough away from potential danger. These points should be used by evacuation coordinators to perform a head count during imminent threats, such as fires and active shooter situations, to ensure everyone in the building is accounted for. Assembly areas should not be located in the middle of a parking lot or in the way of any emergency support vehicles.

Relocation options for evacuated animals

What are some possible relocation sites for your organization to evacuate its animals in care? Will all current foster animals stay in their foster homes? Can any animals be placed into foster homes or go to rescue partners? Will you be able to take advantage of paid boarding or transports?

In the order that makes the most sense for your organization, list locations where the majority of your animals can be relocated (either permanently or temporarily). As a last resort option, are you able to set up an emergency shelter for your animals and others if needed?

Maximum populations

This should reflect the maximum number of staff, volunteers and animals at the facility on any given day. Use ranges if that’s easier (e.g., 10-30). If you have a foster program, add the maximum number of animals who may be in foster on any given day. That figure may affect the number of animals you will need to relocate if foster homes are also impacted by the emergency and need to bring their foster pets back to you because they are unable to care for them.

Partner boarding options

If you have relationships with any partners for boarding, include that information in this document. You do not have to provide exact capacity; you can provide a range. This does not mean this is where you are relocating animals, but it can be a resource should you need it.

Evacuation actions

The section below reflects the actions to take for the safety of your staff, volunteers and animals. (Customize this section if anything does not apply or you need it to more effectively address the needs of your organization.)

Evacuation coordinator actions        
Add any actions that would be taken specifically by the evacuation coordinator, including delegating tasks and communicating with any supervisors. List the exact actions that the evacuation coordinator will need to take.

Staff and volunteer evacuation actions        
These are the actions that should be followed by all staff and volunteers (if applicable).

Animal evacuation actions        
Use the Establishing Evacuation Order for Animals assessment to determine the order in which you will evacuate your animals. Will you start with cats or dogs first? Will you prioritize healthy animals over those who are sick or have medical needs? In what order will you vacate the rooms or kennels in your facility? (See next section for more detailed information.)

Establishing this order in advance will help maximize efficiency during an emergency and allow you to evacuate the most animals possible during a potentially small window of opportunity. Ensure that all animal care staff are aware of and understand the evacuation order. Assign people to specific roles so they are not tripping over one another during the evacuation.

It is equally important to know where to evacuate the animals once they are secure in a crate or carrier or on a leash. Determine in advance if you have enough equipment, supplies and vehicles to transport them where they need to go, whether that be to foster homes, partner agencies, transport hubs, etc. This assessment can give you an idea where you have shortfalls. If you have under-socialized animals, include additional procedures and/or equipment needed for handling (e.g., bite gloves, catchpoles, nets). (Remove any section that does not apply to your organization.)

Supplies and equipment        
List any equipment or documentation required for an evacuation, particularly those items that may be hard to find during a disaster. Include any keys and donation lock boxes, as well as instructions to turn off utilities, if applicable.

In case of fire, ensure all oxygen concentrators/canisters are collected from every room so they do not cause a secondary explosion. (Remove this section if it does not apply to your organization).

Exit instructions and photos

Collect photos of all possible exits (in addition to the primary entrance/exit) that may be used in an evacuation. Provide three photos for each exit in the facility: one photo of the hallway leading up to the exit, one photo of the exit door with the exit sign visible, and one photo looking outside of the exit towards the predetermined assembly area. (Replace sample photos with your own.)

Map of assembly areas

Once an assembly area has been designated, use the same Google photo as the one used in the “Overview Map of Facility” section (zoomed in a bit more, if possible) to indicate where the staff assembly area will be so people can become familiar with it ahead of time.

Relocation option map(s)

This section is for organizations who have pre-identified relocation options to add here such as another building or a partner site. This should not include foster homes or boarding facilities. Include relocation maps for any of the options included in the EAP, and mark them Relocation Option A, Option B, etc.

Personnel contact list

Keep an up-to-date list of current personnel with their mobile numbers, if allowed. (Note that some state and county human resource laws prohibit the sharing of personal communication devices without the express consent of the employee).

Supplies equipment checklist

Use this inventory checklist to determine what you have on hand and what you need to support the evacuation of people and animals from your facility. Add vendor information so staff members know where to go to procure additional items as needed to support evacuation or relocation efforts. See Equipment and Supplies Inventory section.

Storage locations for additional equipment/supplies

Only use this section if you have off-site storage facilities with additional equipment needed for evacuation or care of your displaced animals. Include combination lock codes, storage unit numbers and other pertinent information.


This EAP template can be as comprehensive or as simple as you choose. The more people and/or animals you must account for, the more robust it should become. Once it is completed, it should be shared, drilled and maintained so it remains familiar with everyone who needs to evacuate in an emergency.

Evacuation/emergency action plan         
Evacuation coordinator task assignment         
Establishing order or evacuation

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Establishing Evacuation Order of Animals Assessment        

Use the Establishing Evacuation Order for Animals assessment to determine the order in which the animals in your care will be evacuated, as well as the relocation options where they might go based on resources, staff, partners and mobilization capabilities.

Start with identifying relocation options and placing them in the order that is most feasible for the animals in your care. Some options:

  • All animals remain in foster/new animals go into foster.
  • Some animals go into foster, some go to partner agencies, and some go into paid boarding.
  • All animals go into paid boarding.
  • Transports are coordinated for all animals.
  • All animals go to a relocation site or to a temporary emergency shelter.

The order of options may be emergency event-specific but listing them will give you an idea about how you will continue caring for animals after you evacuate.

Next, provide responses to the questions in the “Evacuation” section. This will help you make determinations regarding the quickest, safest and most efficient order to evacuate the animals in your care.

For example, depending on staffing resources, will cats be evacuated first and then dogs? How many vehicles do you have on hand and which animals will go into which vehicles? What about animals receiving medical treatment at your facility? Do you have enough staffing capabilities to help move the animals? Are there any specific safety protocols around who can handle which type of animal or what equipment must be used to ensure safety during handling?

After that section, move on to the “Continuity planning” section to gain a better sense of what resources, supplies, equipment and partnerships exist to support the order of relocation options listed.

Establishing evacuation order of animals assessment

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Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) Template        

The Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) template allows you to describe the actions your organization will take to operate essential business and lifesaving functions if there is a disruption to a physical work facility or systems access due to an emergency situation.

This plan is necessary if your animal relocation options include a temporary or respite site that will only be used until you can get animals into foster homes, placed with partners or transported. It is also essential for long-term situations like operating a temporary or alternate location(s).

If all the animals in your care either stay with/go into foster homes, or immediately get placed under the care of partners or in a boarding facility, or are transported to other cities or states, then you will only need to develop a continuity plan to determine the responsibilities your staff will have while your primary facility is unavailable or inaccessible.

First, determine what the purpose of this document is for your organization. You may choose to make this a playbook or a checklist versus an official plan depending on how large or robust your operations are. Smaller operations with fewer staff and animal populations may opt to do something simpler.

Develop your key planning questions. They can include:

  • Which business functions are essential during a temporary disruption to normal operations?
  • Which business functions are essential to support animal care operations?
  • What resources are required to continue those essential operations?

Organizational framework

Develop and include your organizational framework by considering the following:

  • Can any staff work remotely, even temporarily? What do they need to make that happen?
  • Can essential functions operate in an alternate facility or location? What would it take to support that?
  • Does your organization have the necessary equipment and personnel to function efficiently outside of your primary facility?

Planning framework

Establish organizational priorities to respond to various emergencies at your facility. Include your organization’s planning scenarios. What are some realistic but challenging emergency situations that would cause major disruptions to your workforce and/or animal population? Some examples can include:

  • What if the disruption lasts up to a month?
  • What if all volunteer activities have been suspended?
  • What if employee absenteeism is up to 50% during the disruption, including department heads, supervisors and essential personnel?
  • What if the regular supply chain is disrupted for weeks?
  • What if there is a catastrophic loss to critical building structures due to fire, flood, etc.?
  • What if there is an extended loss of power and/or computing support?

Leadership succession

Next, list important functions within your organization (e.g., shelter director, field services director, animal care manager, foster coordinator) and identify people who can temporarily fill those roles if key staff are unavailable or incapacitated during an emergency event. (Edit and customize columns as they pertain to your organization.)

Essential functions

Essential functions are those roles that are most pertinent to your organization. In addition to functions like animal care, think of adoptions/foster programs, volunteer programs and clinic teams, among others, as essential. For larger organizations, do not forget support services, such as information technology, human resources (for payroll), communications (to message public, volunteers and supporters), development/fundraising, etc.

Relocation and staff reallocation          
Share information here about where the animals and staff will be relocated and consider:

  • Will all animals be appropriately cared for based on the relocation options you have selected in the “Establishing Animal Evacuation Order Assessment”?
  • Can staff continue essential work remotely or from home?
  • Are there staff in other areas who can be reallocated to support shortfalls in essential areas?

Priorities and functions          
The table highlighted here indicates the emergency status of each department based on the particular emergency and the continuity of organizational priorities and needs. The table should also highlight the minimum number of staff required to perform those functions and briefly outline any modifications that must be made to achieve operational status. (Customize department names as they relate to your organization.)

Common challenges

In this section, list any challenges you might face (depending on the type of emergency) that could significantly impact your organization’s operations. Include whatever contingencies your organization has developed to try and solve them. Examples include:

  • Staffing shortages in critical operational areas;
  • Internet/phone connectivity;
  • Inability to reach essential leadership personnel;
  • Supplies/equipment shortages;
  • Supply chain issues;
  • Public health disruption (e.g., physical challenges, air quality issues); and/or
  • Long-term situations.

Relocation requirements

If you anticipate needing a physical relocation site for the number of animals you might need to care for during a disaster, list the specific requirements (e.g., physical, utilities, safety) of a suitable property. It is ideal to identify this ahead of time. Some factors to consider may include an open layout, adequate airflow and ventilation, potable water, electricity and plenty of storage.

Identified COOP sites for animal care

In this section include any known relocation sites that will be used in an emergency (e.g., a particular fairground, convention center). List the address and any other specifications (e.g., how many animals it can accommodate). Do not include any foster and partner information here.


This is an optional section for communications-related plans with the public, including volunteers and supporters.

Access to supplies and equipment

What logistics plans are in place to obtain, transport and procure items needed for evacuation and/or for continued operations at a relocated site?

Access to information and systems

Develop a continuity plan for information technology (e.g., internet and telephone services) that will allow staff to continue working from a relocation site, if needed. This may be included in your criteria for a relocation site.

Other key internal dependencies

List any utilities and communications companies you use for operations that should be notified of any disruptions and/or could continue providing service at a relocated site, if needed. For organizations with multiple locations, add one row for each location.

Key external dependencies

This section can be taken from the key external contacts section of the EAP. It should list all products and service providers that may be needed (e.g., mail/freight deliveries, trash pick- up, pet food, medical supplies). It can also include contacts such as building management, cleaning services or partners able to conduct transports. It is pertinent to have this information listed so that you can reschedule or reroute services and deliveries.


This section focuses on the requirements for resuming normal operations once the emergency situation or extended disruption has passed. Use the Return to Base Checklist to determine whether the organization’s property is ready to be reoccupied. Recognize that restoration could take an extended amount of time and that central service restoration may happen in stages depending on the extent of the disruption.

List examples of some considerations for resuming normal operations, including:

  • Safe, accessible road and building access;
  • Water and sanitation restoration;
  • Ability to physically return to facility (enough equipment and vehicles);
  • Integration of temporary data support resources with permanent systems;
  • Resupply of all needed resources;
  • Continuity of returning workforce; and/or
  • Employee emotional counseling services provisions.

Continuity of operations plan template      
Return to base checklist

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Return to Base Checklist 

Use the Return to Base Checklist to determine whether your primary facility is safe to reoccupy and return to normal operations. Add the event name for recordkeeping. There may be additional factors that you need to add to your checklist to determine the likelihood of resuming normal operations. Consider:

  • Have emergency personnel deemed the area safe to return?
  • Is the air quality safe for employees and animals?
  • Are the individual facility structures safe to return to for staff?
  • Is the primary housing structure safe to return to for the animals?
  • Are all roads leading to primary structure(s) accessible and safe to drive on?
  • Are all roads in and around the area accessible for visitors, shipments and deliveries?
  • Is there power and electricity?
  • Is the telecommunication system in working order?
  • Is the internet functioning without issue?
  • Are sewage and sanitation facilities functioning well?
  • Is there a need for an assessment to ensure that there are no human or animal fatalities on the premises?
  • Is there any need for a hazardous materials/waste disposal plan?
  • Are you able to return to normal operations within 48 hours, including moving personnel and animals back to primary facilities?
  • Do you have sufficient staffing to ensure that the relocation site is sufficiently cleaned and sanitized to be returned to the owner/partner/county?

Return to base checklist

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Shelter-in-Place Plan Template 

Although it is always preferred that individuals evacuate a building or an area during an emergency, not every disaster situation requires an evacuation. Depending on where you are located and what is around you, a scenario may occur that requires you to shelter in place for a period of time, from a few hours to a few days. 

Follow the Shelter-in-Place Plan Template to develop your own shelter-in-place plan, which spells out the necessary actions, equipment and supplies. Keep in mind that not all facilities are adequately equipped to allow individuals to safely shelter in place, especially when there is a threat to the air quality of the surrounding area, or a potential danger such as a bomb threat, tornado, hazardous material spill, or unrest/violence in the streets.

Please note that this is not a plan for an active shooter scenario. That type of plan must be completed separately and follow the most updated law enforcement guidance. For more detailed plans, consider hiring a planning consultant to assist with making recommendations for reinforcing your facility in such a situation.

The decision to shelter in place will rely on components of your building structure(s), such as its air control system and shut off, ventilation control and any possible additional safety items such as extra exits/entrances, doors or windows that cannot close or lock, etc.

Use the yes/no checklist at the start of this template to help make decisions whether to shelter in place or evacuate based on the threat that is occurring. If the threat includes diminished air quality outside your facility and you cannot control the ventilation and air flow within the facility, evacuating the facility would likely be the safest option.

Risks, hazards, and vulnerabilities

In this section, determine what types of hazards might pose the greatest risk to the facility and force you to shelter in place. If you have more than one facility, indicate the threats for each and describe the risks they pose. (For organizations with only one facility in one location, you can remove the location column.)

Hazards can include:

  • Events that produce diminished air quality (e.g., hazardous material spill or explosion, riot gas, air-borne contagion);
  • Natural disasters like tornadoes or severe weather; and
  • External threats like riots or civil unrest.


This section outlines the locations and actions that staff and volunteers will need to take based on specific scenarios. You will need to pre-determine appropriate shelter-in-place areas within your facility/facilities. Be specific as to where the safest location is within your facility for each risk listed.

For example, in any situation involving civil unrest outside your facility, the safest place may be the conference room which has no windows, is the furthest most interior room and has a door that can lock.

Use the text box to indicate the various shelter location areas within your facility or any back-up locations for overflow of people and animals that will be utilized in a shelter-in-place situation.

Priorities and functions     
The table highlighted here in the plan is the same table from the Essential Services Assessment . Use it to help indicate the emergency status of each department based on the particular type of emergency and the continuity of priorities and needs for the organization. The table also highlights the minimum number of staff required to perform those functions and briefly outlines any modifications that must be made to achieve that operational status. (Customize department names as they relate to your organization.)

Shelter-in-place procedures:     
The section below reflects the actions to take for the safety of your staff, volunteers and animals. (Customize this if anything does not apply or to more effectively address the needs of your organization.)

Shelter-in-place coordinator (SIP-C) actions     
Add any actions that would be taken specifically by the shelter-in-place coordinator (SIP-C) including the delegation of tasks and communication to any supervisors. This should be customized to list the exact actions that the SIP-C will need to take. Customize the SIP-C Task Description to fit your own needs.

Staff and volunteer shelter-in-place actions  
These are the actions that should be followed by all staff and volunteers, if applicable, as well as any additional instructions you choose to add.

Animal safety actions  
Use this area to include actions that would help keep the animals safe in a situation where you have to hunker down and shelter in place. Consider:

  • Do the animals need to be moved from outside to inside?
  • Do the animals need to be moved from the far back of the building to various rooms closer to the center?
  • Do you have the supplies on hand to care for the animals for a short period of time

Identifying the actions you need to take during a shelter-in-place event will help you plan appropriately. Include any supplies or equipment you might need to pre-stage throughout the facility. Keep the “Shelter-in-Place Supplies and Equipment Checklist” up-to-date with your current inventory as often as possible.

Facility description

The following section is meant for you to complete to learn more about your facility, including whether there is a generator, how long it generates power for, what areas of the facility are covered by the generator, where the air flow cutoff switches are, where the external air vents are located, etc. This information guides preparedness and planning efforts at the facility and is subject to change based on the circumstances at the time of the event.

External contacts

Use the external contacts list from your EAP or COOP or add contact information here for goods and services you will need to reach to reschedule service. This can also include building or facility management if you rent or lease a facility; water, product or food deliveries; medical supplies deliveries; needle or sharps collection if you have an on-site veterinary clinic, etc.

Utilities and resources

It is also important to include the information from your COOP regarding utilities and resources, such as electricity, gas and heat provider, as well as internet and telephone service providers in the event of disruption (for each location if you have more than one).

Other considerations

Add any additional considerations or situations unique to your facility or location.

Emergency supply kits

This section provides an idea of the types of supplies that may be needed in an emergency supply kit that is designed to support a shelter-in-place event. It includes items to help stem the flow of outside air for those types of scenarios such as a generator, oscillating fans and a portable hand-crank or battery-operated radio (with plenty of extra batteries).

• Shelter in place plan template   
• Essential services assessment    
• SIP-C task description

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Partnership Development 

Identifying and establishing various partnerships is an essential part of emergency planning. You never know when you might need a third-party transporter to move large quantities of animals or boarding kennels that have the capacity to temporarily hold your animals in the event of an emergency evacuation. There are many different types of partners you could explore to help you in emergency situations, including:

  • Private space that can be used as a temporary animal shelter (e.g., fairgrounds, convention center, airplane hangar);
  • Paid or partner boarding/kennels;
  • Transporters;
  • Car rental companies;
  • Pet food and supply stores;
  • Other equipment suppliers;
  • Vet clinics; and
  • Storage facilities.

Establishing these partnerships can seem daunting and intimidating. Creating a simple elevator speech about why you are reaching out to them and a bulleted list of what you are seeking will help you stay on track. Have a series of questions to ask and don’t be afraid to ask for free services or supplies. Your initial call may not always yield results if you haven’t reached the person who can make those decisions, so always make sure you ask for a decision-maker or manager.

Use the Guidelines and Talking Points for Establishing Essential Partnerships document to help guide you through the process and give you a customizable script.

Once it seems you have identified a potential partner, ask if you can formalize the partnership agreement so there will be no hiccups in the event of staff turnover. Use the “Partner Agreement Template.”

Partnership agreement template

The Partnership Agreement Template should be used when a new partner has been identified and discussions for support have already been initiated. This template spells out actions, roles, responsibilities and decisions that each agency or business will perform during an emergency event. Support can include providing equipment, personnel, vehicles, supplies, boarding, storage, transport, etc.

Customize the template and include specifics about conversations you have had. Is this a one-sided support partner? Is there mutual support being provided? Spell out any specifics.

Make sure to include capabilities and capacity, as well as how to initiate the agreement during times of disaster. The document should include the following: any negotiated costs or coverage of costs associated with the support provided; any reporting that needs to happen for fundraising or publicity purposes; and a way to conclude the need for continued emergency response support. Make sure there is more than one point of contact for each agency represented in this partnership document in case of staff turnover.

It is highly advisable to conduct a review of the partnership every several years and make adjustments as needed. Keep in mind that none of the partners you identify should be obligated to support your shelter in an emergency. This agreement is for reference for each party in the event that the partner can offer assistance in an emergency situation.

Partnership Tracker

Utilize the Partnership Tracker to keep a record of the partners that your agency has identified, as well as the point of contact information, and the date of the agreement renewal to help keep track.

• Guidelines and Talking Points for Establishing Essential Partnerships   
• Partnership agreement template   
• Partnership tracker

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Foster Resources 

Both new and existing fosters are a massive resource during an emergency and can change the scope and scale of your organizational response. If you have a large foster base and many of your shelter’s animals are in their care, ensure they are properly prepared to manage any type of situation that might arise with their foster animals, including disasters.

It is possible that your fosters will also be impacted by a disaster and must return the animals into your care. In addition, you might gain an influx of animals immediately prior to or following a disaster. Identifying new fosters within your community will reduce the number of animals that you will need to evacuate or board as part of your emergency plans.

It is essential that you develop training and resources that can help minimize the impact of disasters on your shelter by best supporting your foster base and helping recruit for new fosters in an emergency. If you do not have a foster coordinator or team, consider tasking a staff member or two as the foster program liaisons (FPL). See the Foster Equipment and Supplies Inventory document .

For new and existing fosters

Consider the types of emergency preparedness resources that you can offer your fosters – new and existing. You want them to be prepared so they are safe and well during an emergency and know what to do and how to contact you if needed.

Such resources can include:

  • Disaster preparedness training;
  • Supplies and equipment; and
  • An emergency phone number they can call or text via SMS in the event local landlines are inundated or inaccessible.

• Foster program liaison task assignment   
• Foster equipment and supplies inventory

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Data Collection for Reports 

Collecting significant data points in a disaster serves many purposes, from helping to tell a story to your donors and supporters, to having a historical record of the amount of energy, time, effort and money each emergency required.

You can collect data about anything, but the focus should really be on important details like how many animals came through your doors as a result of the disaster. You can tell success stories with such data by saying, for example, “20 animals were reunited with their owners in two weeks” or “250 volunteer hours were spent cleaning cages and walking dogs during the response operation.” You can also use data in a whimsical way on your social media pages, for example, by captioning a photo of a dog licking peanut butter out of a food puzzle with “10 jars of peanut butter were consumed during the response operation, which lasted 7 days.”

Such information is good for encouraging your supporters to help recoup costs spent on the response operation. It also comes in handy when you want to review your plans for similar events. You can use what you learned from the information collected during your most recent emergency event to determine whether you need to adjust the number of staff and volunteers needed for the next one.

Use the Disaster Data Collection Template to collect information that would be valuable to your organization and its donors, volunteers and supporters. (Customize the fields as you feel necessary.)

• Disaster data collection template

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Inventory Supply Forms 

The following inventory forms help keep track of the supplies and equipment you have on hand to support your emergency response plans. Because this is a template, it is important to customize each list based on the supplies and equipment your organization will need to run your specific kind of operation. These forms also help plan out the budget needed to support response operations.

Staff members should be required to complete regular inventories of items so that these lists stay up to date. (Note that evacuation and shelter-in-place coordinators should be responsible for completing or overseeing this process.) Adding vendor information makes it easy to reorder supplies, especially in high staff turnover environments.

Evacuation equipment and supplies inventory

Use this checklist as a reference sheet of vendors and an inventory tracker to make sure you have adequate supplies in an emergency evacuation situation. (Customize and revise as needed.)

This list can also be used to determine what items need to be purchased and to keep track of where items are stored. The cost per unit and total cost columns can be used for budgeting. Make sure to date each inventory recording to know which is the latest version.

Animal first-aid equipment and supplies inventory

Use this checklist as a reference sheet of vendors and an inventory tracker to make sure you have adequate supplies for an animal first-aid kit. (Customize and revise as needed.)

Shelter-in-place equipment and supplies inventory

Use this checklist as a reference sheet of vendors and an inventory tracker to make sure you have adequate supplies for an emergency shelter-in-place situation. (Customize and revise as needed.)

This list can also be used to determine what items need to be purchased and to keep track of where items are stored. The cost per unit and total cost columns can be used for budgeting. Make sure to date each inventory recording to know which is the latest version.

Foster equipment and supplies inventory

Use this checklist as a reference sheet of vendors and an inventory tracker to make sure you have adequate supplies to support your fosters in an emergency. Make sure to date each inventory recording to know which is the latest version. (Customize and revise as needed.)

• Evacuation equipment and supplies inventory  
• Animal first-aid equipment and supplies inventory  
• Shelter in place equipment and supplies inventory  
• Foster equipment and supplies inventory

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Training links


IS-100.C - Introduction to the Incident Command System, ICS     
IS-200.C – Basic Incident Command System for Initial Response     
IS-700.B – An Introduction to the National Management System     
IS-800.D – An Introduction to the National Response Framework     
IS-10.A – Animals in Disasters: Awareness and Preparedness     
IS-11.A – Animal in Disasters – Community Planning     
IS-111.A – Livestock in Disasters

ASPCApro Online Courses Disaster Ready training

Best Friends Animal Society Emergency Response Training

External for Fosters:

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Exercising Emergency Plans

How to Host an Exercise

Once plans have been developed, it is extremely important to drill or exercise them to ensure that there is no missing information. Exercises provide an ongoing measure of each plan’s effectiveness and reinforce the actions outlined in the plans with staff.

Each plan requires its own exercise. For shelters with more than one facility, each location will require its own exercise. At a minimum, you should conduct one table-top or functional exercise each year.

  • First set your objectives. What are you exercising?
  • Schedule a date for the exercise and make sure that any staff who need to participate will be present.
  • Develop a realistic exercise scenario based on the type of exercise you are hosting. Any participant required to go through the exercise should not also be part of the planning of the exercise, as it eliminates the reality of identifying shortfalls.
  • Develop a roster of staff who you want to participate in the exercise. You can rotate staff for various exercises.
  • Develop a timeline of events for exercise day that includes when staff arrive and when the emergency occurs. Consider hosting the exercise in phases. For example, if conducting an evacuation exercise, Phase 1 can include the emergency occurring and the immediate actions that follow in preparation for evacuation; Phase 2 can include the actual evacuation; and Phase 3 can include the movement of animals and staff away from the facility. You do not need to include actions that will take place after the emergency occurs, as those should be spelled out in your organization’s evacuation plan.
  • Consider assigning volunteers or staff to various aspects of the exercise as evaluators to receive feedback on the effectiveness of various actions and decisions.
  • As you conduct more of these exercises with your teams, consider adding layers of complexity by adding one or two “injects” such as making vehicles inaccessible or losing the ability to connect to the internet. These layers are meant to act like curve balls and add realistic complexity, which forces your teams to remain flexible and resourceful.
  • Upon completion of the exercise, immediately gather feedback from all participants about what went well, and which areas need improvement. This will give you critical information about changes that need to be implemented to further improve upon your plans.

The whole planning process is a work in progress; a plan should never be considered final as you will always continue to improve it.

Exercise Formats

There are various formats that can be used to drill or exercise a plan. Some formats will only minimally disrupt daily operations, which sounds good but isn’t as effective. It will also require drills to be held much more frequently so that all necessary staff can participate. Other formats may cause the shelter to be disrupted for several hours or for a full day in order to get a larger number of staff involved but are much more effective exercises. Below are some of the different formats for exercise scenarios; please see the Emergency Exercise Scenario Options for Emergency Plans document for a more thorough list of options.

This refers to a gathering of staff who focus on familiarizing themselves with roles, responsibilities and procedures outlined in a specific plan.

Discussion-based sessions where team members meet in an informal classroom setting to discuss their roles during an emergency and their responses to a simulated emergency situation, as guided by a facilitator.

These kinds of exercises test a specific component of a plan, rather than the entire plan. For example, it might test only the transport portion of an evacuation plan, or the communications flow of a shelter-in-place plan.

Exercise Topics

There can be many different plans, but the plans prioritized for exercising should include the ones most likely to occur, as well as the ones that would be the most difficult, such as evacuating an entire facility. They should also be based on different scenarios, including:

  • Evacuation due to a building fire;
  • Evacuation due to an impending hurricane or wildfire;
  • Power outage scenario;
  • Internet connectivity scenario;
  • Shelter in place due to diminished air quality;
  • Shelter in place due to a civil unrest or riot; or
  • Drilling your foster network.

If there is an option to evacuate your animals to a COOP/relocation site, then you will need to exercise the layout and plan for all animal care functions. Remember to also include an exercise option for staff in working in non-animal care areas that can be plugged into the response for animal care areas. If they have specific roles they can fulfill during a disaster, consider including them in any scheduled exercises or review various scenarios with them via the table-top format.

• Emergency Exercise Scenario Options for Emergency Plans

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Emergency Tip Sheets

Shelters often deal with emergencies of all types – from man-made to natural disasters. Best Friends developed these different tip sheets below to ensure that shelters had a list of action steps to follow to help keep their staff and animals safe. Please click on any of the tip sheets below.

What a shelter should do after it has been directly impacted by a disaster

Tips to prepare for wildfire events for shelters

Tips to prepare for a large placement of animals from a dogfighting case

Tips to prepare for a large placement of animals from hoarding cases

Tips to prepare for a power outage for shelters

Tips to prepare for severe weather and tornado outbreaks for shelters

Tips to prepare for an earthquake for shelters

Tips to prepare for extreme heat for shelters

Tips to prepare for flooding events for shelters

Tips to prepare for freezing temperatures for shelters

Tips to prepare for hurricanes for shelters

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Download the complete toolkit (PDF)

The material in this toolkit are subject to change at any time at Best Friends Animal Society’s discretion. Date: January 2023 This toolkit is intended for educational purposes only and can be considered in the development of your facility’s emergency preparedness plans. The materials accessible via the link are for the sole use of the recipient and the recipient’s internal team and may not be reproduced or circulated without Best Friends Animal Society’s prior written consent. 

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