Update from the FVMA Disaster Preparedness Committee Chair

Terry Clekis, DVM, MS | | Published: Issue 2 2024

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As the chair of the FVMA Disaster Preparedness Committee, I am proud to share our significant achievements from the past year and outline our ambitious plans for the future. Our commitment to safeguarding Florida’s animal population through preparedness, response, and recovery efforts has never been stronger.

I also extend a heartfelt invitation to our community to join the Florida Veterinary Corps, a critical volunteer-driven program supporting local officials in responding to animal emergencies.

A Year in Review

Our committee engages monthly with the Florida State Agricultural Response Team (SART) and convenes quarterly in Gainesville, FL to strategize on how we can continue to improve the Florida Veterinary Corps program. These discussions are vital, and equally focused on conducting major disaster preparedness exercises alongside our SART partners; enhancing our readiness and response capabilities.

A key achievement this year was our collaboration with Florida SART to streamline the onboarding process for anyone interested in joining the Florida Veterinary Corps. We have made it easier for potential volunteers to understand the requirements and necessary skills required to operate effectively under state Emergency Support Function 17 (ESF17) as part of the State Emergency Response Team.

Aspiring volunteers must complete Incident Command System (ICS) training courses to be eligible to apply for the Florida Veterinary Corps. Recognizing the importance of these trainings, we brought FEMA’s Incident Command System (ICS) exam preparation courses to FVMA Annual Conference this past April. This initiative marked the first time that these courses were offered in person to our members and tailored specifically for the veterinary community. Participants were also able to take the ICS exams at the end of each workshop to become full members of the Florida Veterinary Corps.

While we were blessed with no major catastrophic event these past twelve months, current Florida Veterinary Corps members were called to aid their community in the aftermath of Hurricane Idalia. I am so grateful for being able to meet with volunteers at FVMA Annual Conference in 2023 to discuss our response to Hurricane Ian in 2022 and take lessons learned during that experience to benefit those impacted by Idalia. 

Earlier this year, we sent out a call for volunteers to aid with the state’s response leading flights to evacuate citizens from Haiti and reunite them with their families. Florida Veterinary Corps volunteers proudly supported the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) and Orange County Emergency Management teams to evaluate pets accompanying evacuees on the flights into Orlando International Airport. 

Ongoing Projects and Future Initiatives

Looking ahead, we are excited to further our educational offerings by implementing a dedicated disaster track at future FVMA conferences. Topics we wish to educate the community on include:

Disaster preparedness for patients, families, and employees.

Planning for operational continuity in veterinary hospitals during crises.

Cybersecurity measures to protect veterinary services.

We also hope to continue offering ICS training at future FVMA conferences. For our inaugural training session, we had 16 veterinary professionals complete their training! 

Moreover, we are strengthening our ties with local Veterinary Medical Associations (VMAs) to foster relationships with county Emergency Managers and ESF17 agents. This initiative will enhance our state’s preparedness for upcoming emergencies.

The Florida Veterinary Corps: An Invitation to Make a Difference

The Florida Veterinary Corps is at the heart of our emergency response strategy. This volunteer-driven program plays a pivotal role in managing animal emergencies, predominantly during natural disasters. Volunteers serve in various capacities, such as veterinary infrastructure assessment teams, triage or emergency animal treatment teams, and animal disease surveillance/control teams.

We are proud to report that as of April 2024, 42 volunteers have completed the four ICS training courses required for responding as part of the state’s official emergency response team. This makes them full Florida Veterinary Corps members and eligible for deployment to other states through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC)! 

We encourage all capable veterinarians and veterinary technicians to please consider joining the Florida Veterinary Corps. By doing so, you can help save lives, provide relief, and make a meaningful impact on both animals and people affected by disasters.

The past year has been a period of growth for the FVMA Disaster Preparedness Committee. Let us unite in our commitment to preparedness and community service, ensuring that we are ready to respond when animals and our fellow citizens need us most. Together, we can continue to protect and heal!

Thank you yo our Florida Veterinary Corp Volunteers!

The volunteers below have successfully completed all ICS training courses crucial for responding as part of the state’s official emergency response team.

Adrienne Atkins

Alana Canupp

Alec Wynne 

Alison Kennedy-Benson

Alissa Tocko

Allison Retotar

Amanda Rooney

Amber Davidson 

Bryan Clarke

Catherine Barnette

Dana Sherman

Elizabeth Hugger

Emily Moser

Emily Walton

Erin Gradle

Gordon Smok

Jennifer Teitelbaum

Jerry Rayburn

Julie Moodoyan

Kate Berberick

Kristy Meadows

Laurie Walmsley

Lisa Potkewitz

Margarethe Garrett

Margaux Buchanan

Mark Colicchio

Meagan Meador

Mike Copenhaver

Nicole Ferguson-Morrison

Nicole Maloney

Sandy Robinson

Sarah Tingle

Scott Richardson

Stacy Hudak

Stanley Diment

Tammi Whelan

Terri Guidry

Terri Parrott

Terry Clekis

Vanessa Ferraz

Victoria Caccavone

Zachary Franklin

About the Author

Terry Clekis, DVM, MS

Dr. Terry Clekis is a graduate of the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine. He purchased Braden River Animal Hospital in Bradenton, Florida in 2002 and later opened North River Animal Hospital in Parrish, Florida in 2017. Dr. Clekis has chaired the Disaster Preparedness Committee since 2010 and has been a member of the Florida Veterinary Corps since 2013. Dr. Clekis is a board member of the Southeast Guide Dog Association, the Manatee County Humane Society, and the American Heartworm Society. He is an active member of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the FVMA, and the Southwest Florida Veterinary Medical Association.

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