Alyssa Turner, a junior veterinary technology student from Baltimore, Md., escorts a pet to Fort Valley State University’s State Animal Facilities for Emergencies (SAFE) Center during the HURREX exercise May 6.
In preparation for the upcoming season, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) conducted a statewide hurricane evacuation simulation known as HURREX (Hurricane Exercise) May 6. Fort Valley State University’s State Animal Facilities for Emergencies (SAFE) Center and Health and Physical Education (HPE) Complex served as temporary shelters for hurricane evacuees and their pets. The SAFE Center, the only facility of its kind in the U.S., can house 105 dogs, 80 cats and 30 horses.
Dr. George McCommon, director of the SAFE Center and FVSU’s interim department head of veterinary science and public health, said the SAFE Center was more than ready for the volume of animals processed during the drill. During the simulation, FVSU veterinary technology students, acting as 26 displaced families, housed more than 42 animals in the SAFE Center.
Dr. Dwayne Crew, FVSU chief facility officer, said the university can prepare to temporarily house more than 1,600 evacuees in 48 hours using the HPE Complex with Woodward Gymnasium serving as an overflow facility.
In addition to FVSU personnel and volunteers, representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Georgia Department of Agriculture, American Red Cross, Peach County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) and the Salvation Army also participated.
Crystal Paulk-Buchanan, spokesperson for GEMA, said the drills are conducted every two years to test the agency’s plans and procedures. She also said that even though Georgia was not impacted by any hurricanes or tropical weather last year, 2014 may be different. “Every year is a new year and you never know what’s going to happen, and we always have to be ready,” Paulk-Buchanan said.