Animal Lifeline Response Team needs volunteers

Help is needed to deal with increasing calls on their services

Volunteer Nola Beard cuddles with Stripes, one of the cats that survived a house fire in Kaleden. Submitted photo

With the prospect of more natural disasters on the horizon, the Animal Lifeline Emergency Response Team (ALERT) is looking to add to their volunteer base in Penticton.

If helping out animals in need is something that appeals to you, you can sign up for their next training session, coming up on Jan. 26 in Penticton.

ALERT is an emergency animal response team deployed during disasters and emergencies by Emergency Support Services or directly through the City of Penticton or the RDOS Emergency Operations Centre.

Related: A good day for Joe Rich firefighters

The team got its start back in 1994 with the Garnet fire, and though it has had many names since, the purpose remains the same: caring for the animals, from pets to livestock, displaced by disasters like the flooding and fires the South Okanagan has experienced in the past two years.

But it’s not only the big disasters they respond to. A Level 1 Response could be a house or condo fire where Emergency Support Services has evacuated the family, who may have pets that need help as well. That’s when ALERT is deployed to attend to evacuate or shelter those animals, as happened recently with a house fire in Kaleden and to a trailer fire in Penticton.

ALERT volunteers were also deployed during flooding and fires. During events like these, the City of Penticton or the RDOS host evacuees from other regions in the province like evacuees from Williams Lake during the 2017 fire. ALERT volunteers were kept busy caring for those animal evacuees at the old city pound.

Some of the volunteers from the original group are still going, but they need more volunteers to handle the load with more flooding, wildfires landslides and other disasters expected in 2019.

Volunteering varies. ALERT volunteers care for animals from fish to horses, and in five main actions: evacuation, maintenance, trapping, safe sheltering and mortality.

Volunteers are mobilized depending on their experience and areas of comfort — a person with expertise with horses would be working with horses. Other volunteers have little animal experience but they have good interpersonal skills with people and are efficient with paperwork while some volunteers simply drive animals from the reception centres to animal intake facilities and others haul livestock from evacuated properties to fosters or to the Desert Park Recreation facility in Osoyoos.

There is a job for everyone. Aside from haulers, volunteer members have to complete a full day course in order to understand how ALERT fits into the incident command system, like the upcoming one on Jan. 26.

The cost of the course is $40 per participant, which includes the first year’s membership.

If you are interested in joining the volunteer team, register as soon as possible for the Jan. 26 course in Penticton. You can check out ALERT’s website at www.alertcanada.org or follow them on Facebook at Animal Lifeline Emergency Response Team.

ALERT is 100 per cent volunteer and receives funding through donations, memberships and fundraising activities, including the new corporate memberships.


Steve Kidd
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
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