Wildlife Rehabilitators

Wildlife rehabilitators are often the depot for disaster victims, and yet they are at risk form disaster impact.

Planning needs to include taking in and caring for ill and injured psittacines, as well as detailed plans and preparation for impact on the facility itself. Often in a disaster, both are happening simultaneously, which outlines the importance of full planning and preparations well in advance of any crisis.

Good planning is the key to successful recovery from an event. Disaster planning evolves and adapts, and is a dynamic process, making the process more important than an actual plan.

Wild psittacine facilities have a set of unique circumstances that do not apply to any other type of facility. They have a biodiversity of species in diverse levels of care and dependency, including neonates, combative adults, and many human staff and volunteers who are deeply committed to the care of the animals. In addition, facilities often depend on donors and a high-quality reputation of responsibility, code of conduct, and highest standards of care for their charges to continue to function.

To complicate things even more, rehabilitators have to answer to international, national, state, and local licensure, permitting, rules, regulations and law. Thus, planning is essential, required in some cases, and just makes good sense. No facility should make a plan while a disaster is in progress. Lives will be lost.

Types of disasters that might impact the facility :


If the facility is in a hurricane area, or potential hurricane area, it will be necessary to have detailed, simple and easily implemented planning. For risk assessment, see local meteorological history and statistics.

Tornados, major storms, hailstorms, dust storms

Almost any region is a potential intense storm area, and as climate change continues, the frequency, incidence and severity of storms may increase the number of both expected and unexpected tornados and other storm phenomena.


Flooding can happen with no rain events; such situations include ice dams, snowmelt (even if the facility is located in the tropics), dam breach, volcanic impacts, etc. as well as serious upstream flooding from rain or other events, and post-fire mudslides and flooding secondary to primary disasters.


Wildfires are the first fire disaster that people think of in disaster planning, but structure fires are common and devastating as well. A disaster plan for fire in or near the facility should be an essential part of risk assessment. Structural fires are very common incidents that occur across all types of businesses. Local fire codes are designed to protect facilities and all codes and regulations should be followed. In addition, wildlife care facilities have many potential fire hazards (heating pads, ICU, heat lamps, oxygen on-site, flammable materials and liquids, etc.).

Historical and current wildfire data can be acquired from several sources to evaluate the potential for institutional risk. Smoke and ash can cause severe medical concerns for both people and parrots. Risk assessment should include evacuation routes, additional unexpected fire victims (parrots, other wildlife, and even people), staff availability, transfers to the facility from others. Power, water, sewer, communications and other utilities infrastructure is likely to be damaged or not available. Planning must include self-sufficiency for reasonable timeframes.

Toxic Plume

A plume is an active dispersal of transported material across geographic locations. Smoke plumes from fires can affect areas hundreds of miles away; volcanic particulate plumes can affect vast geographic areas and even influence weather patterns. Know where there are rail yards, nuclear plants, landfills, mine tailings, ship docks, fuel depots or other infrastructure that could produce a plume that affects the facility as a high consequence event. Make sure the planning team assesses both local and distant events in the risk assessment.

  • What is the water or airflow in relation to hazard sources?

  • What surrounds the facility? What is upstream? Upwind?

  • From what direction are the prevailing winds for the institution? Second most common direction? Uncommon direction(s)?


Volcanic eruptions are seismic events located along fault lines. Seismic events may yield tsunami formation that can affect locations thousands of miles away. Tidal waves can travel great distances up coastal rivers. Tsunami data is provided by multiple organizations and other non- governmental agencies.

  • Where are volcanoes and fault lines in relation to the facility? Upwind, downwind, downstream?

  • Using these resources, what fault lines are closest, and how might they harm the facility?

  • What Richter scale of earthquake is common near the facility or could cause a plume to move to the facility?

  • Is the facility within a tsunami risk zone?


There are many possible hazardous water or airborne compounds and it is the organization’s responsibility to know where they are. Keep in mind that some response activities may be restricted to those with the proper training, and it is very possible that no facility staff has this training. Look to the experts for more information on these hazards if they could happen at the facility.

  • If there are railroad tracks near the facility, is it known what is being carried in those railcars?

  • Are there military facilities or depots that might be affected in a disaster?

  • What are the quantities and locations of hazardous materials on the property? Are storage conditions able to withstand an incident? Will they be accessible in an incident?

  • Where does the facility store biological specimens in formalin? This material is considered hazardous.

  • How can the risk assessment include fertilizer and other material used on the property by groundskeepers or maintenance professionals? Is that person or team included in the planning or response team?

  • If petroleum products are stored underground, flooding may “float” it out of containment. These and other underground tanks must be identified and known to first responders.

There are many types of spills that occur every day. The facility probably keeps hazardous material on site. Don’t forget to consider:

  • Oxygen

  • Radiology/radiation

  • Fuel supplies

  • Cleaning, disinfection, household chemicals

  • Pesticides

  • Lab supplies (formalin, ethanol)

  • Nearby power plants, mine tailings, petroleum containment ponds, factories, landfills, illegal dumps, and many other industrial hazards.

  • Chlorine Gas: The facility may be subject to immediate staff evacuation if a spill occurs nearby. If resorts, pest control, swimming pool suppliers and industry have chlorine in quantity is the facility downhill or downwind?

  • Natural gas pipelines or methane leaks can rupture and cause evacuations, plumes, secondary fires

Environmental Toxins

Red tide, other diatom-based toxins, blue-green algae, botulism, and many other environmental/biological toxic events should be evaluated. Keep in mind that these events may become more common, expand geographically, become more lengthy, more frequent and more lethal with changing climate.

Infectious Diseases

Transboundary diseases can impact international agriculture and trade. The origin of such would most likely be an agricultural facility, so it is important to note where farms and other domestic livestock are in the region in the risk assessment. How is the waste from those facilities controlled? What kind of insect or vector or vaccines are common in the area? Is there a history of outbreaks (especially avian paramyxovirus-1, “Newcastle's Disease”, but also Yellow Fever, and many mosquito-borne diseases) Is there potential spread to the facility’s psittacine inhabitants?

The facility veterinarian should be included in planning, should know the list of reportable animal diseases for the nation and/or state and be familiar with OIE disease reporting. Work with the veterinary staff to understand which animals create concern for each of these reportable diseases. Look to the experts for more information on this hazard if it could happen at the facility. Consult specific country websites.

Operational Emergencies

Many commonplace types of events can impact the facility. To be complete, the risk assessment should include issues like these below. Look to the experts for more information on these hazards if they could happen at the facility.

  • If there is a power outage, how will staff enter facility grounds if the main security gate is electronic?

  • What will you do if the tap water source is interrupted?

  • How reliant is the facility on particular vendors and their delivery schedule, particularly for animal feed or veterinary care?

  • Are there alternate ways around blockage of transportation routes?

  • Look to the experts for more information on this hazard if it could happen at the facility.

Know What is Needed, Know What is at Hand: or, How to Know That the Facility has Everything Needed

There should now be an understanding of what disasters are likely at the facility, and what assets need to be protected. The next step is to know what the facility needs to accomplish each objective, and what is already on hand. A needs list can include tangible items such as personal protective equipment (PPE), and intangibles such as staff training to meet the expertise level required to carry out an action. Use the below examples to think through the facility's needs list to meet particular objectives.

Build the needs list based on the facility's SMART objectives. As the team thinks through what actions and resources are needed to achieve each objective, take an inventory of what is already on-hand, and whether there are any shortages. Avoid the pitfall of building the plan around present resources (e.g., 2 trucks and a trailer), instead, plan around objectives (e.g., move 24 Amazons to the soccer stadium). Planning around resources tends to arbitrarily limit understanding of the greater context. The practice of making resource lists provides information to use for real-world planning, and it also allows the planning team to revisit facility priorities and continuously refine the plan.

A passion to save parrots does not supersede the need to protect the lives of facility staff or responders. Use the tables below to practice thinking through actions, and necessary resources. Remember that this is only one suggested way to work through planning. The facility's planning and results will be unique to it.

The decision to evacuate, or intentionally prematurely release the animals will depend on many factors. If the facility does not have the equipment on hand to safely evacuate these animals, identify potential transporters, and know their capabilities and limitations. Check with licensing agencies about emergency release into safe habitat. As with other critical actions, consider building these issues into any mutual aid with partners. These mutual aid agreements or pacts are also known as memoranda of understanding (MOU). It is the facility’s responsibility to explore specific release and transport needs unique to it.

Build Procedures From This Information: Write The Plan

Remember that a contingency plan is a result of a methodical planning process, and this process is ongoing.

Example: Hurricane warning and pre-release flights

  • Five (5) days before a hurricane is expected to be within 100 miles of the facility, check all enclosures for structural soundness. Do any needed repairs at least 48 hours prior to the storm.

  • Evaluate the possibility of early release or ex-situ sites in safe areas.

  • Disaster Team personnel prepare for capture at least three (3) days before the storm. This includes reviewing or practicing capture protocols, stockpiling and confirming crates, transport, and finding if relocation facilities are available, and reviewing how to set up care off-site.

There are many ways others build and organize these sections. Sections may be grouped by time (i.e., 72 hours before a storm, 48 hours before a storm, during storm, after storm), by task or department (i.e., all training needed to meet the objectives), by asset (i.e., flights, hospital). Do what works for the facility and planning team. Remember that starting simple can help in preparation for more complex hazards as the team keeps building and refining the plan.

Train And Maintain: Or, how to keep this going?

Self-assessment of readiness to start training and exercising

Good training and exercising strengthens the facility's preparedness and resilience, but bad training can take it backwards.

Plan maintenance

The next step after evaluating results is to refine the plan. Exercise results provide an opportunity to plan, justify, and assign accountable, corrective actions.

A plan alone is not effective unless employees or volunteers understand it. Training informs participants about the plan and exercising allows them to practice their roles. Training and exercising also provides the opportunity to understand the elements that don’t work in a no-fault, low stress environment. That will allow the team to go back, review plans and improve them as necessary.

Contingency planning is a cyclical process, based upon the planning cycle printed at the beginning of each module of this workbook. Training and exercising will allow the team to continue on the cycle of refining its objectives, making sure there are the partners to help identify new risks discovered during exercises, which in turn will allow for improvement of the plan. The team’s capabilities should increase over time, and partners will change! This is why continuous planning is so important. It’s never ‘once and done’ because nearly as soon as a plan is on paper, it may need to be improved. Don’t be discouraged! The primary goal of continuous planning is improvement.

Useful Links for disaster planning (AVAILABLE ON LINE TO EVERYONE)

ZAHPS https://zahp.aza.org/

FEMA training https://training.fema.gov/emi.aspx

SanDiego Zoo Global Academy https://sdzglobalacademy.org