Melissa J. Nixon, DVM
Everyone should take FEMA courses IS 100, IS 200, IS 700 as a minimum.
Encourage folks to keep taking FEMA courses, there are many on the list of use to an ARG, and it never harms your credibility to have members with FEMA completion certificates.
Everyone should take Red Cross first aid for humans and introduction to disaster services. Your local Red Cross chapter may be willing to run these classes specifically for your group if there are enough volunteers needing the courses.
Have at least one other volunteer join the Incident Commander in taking other Red Cross courses and reporting back to the group on what they learned.
In some areas, Red Cross offers a first aid course for animals. In others, you can borrow the rescue dog and have your own class.
Check with HSUS, Code 3 Associates, American Humane, etc., to see about getting at least one of your volunteers through their training classes. It really helps to have this cross training between groups. Have the person who trained with another group do a presentation to your group on what they learned. Have an open discussion afterwards of differences in technique or approach.
Your basic training classes should include:
Incident Command System
Types of disasters
Different positions available within the ARG
Handling of various species
You will find sample notes for several of these sessions elsewhere in this manual. It is a good idea to have someone videotape each session so that folks who miss the original meeting can make it up by viewing the videotape.
Administer a written examination at the end of basic training.
In California, the state also offers classes in SEMS. If your state has something similar, send at least one representative plus the Incident Commander to take the course and report back to the group.
In California, a state or county OES official must administer a loyalty oath and swear members in as Disaster Service Workers. They then receive a photo identification card specific to the ARG and their name is added to the list of certified members on file with the county and state.
Have a tabletop exercise for your ARG at least once a year.
Have an annual live drill at least once a year specifically for the ARG, usually 6 months after the tabletop. We used to bivouac on the fairgrounds, haul in some critters, and have a fun time while updating our training and practicing being self sufficient for a couple of days.
Be sure to debrief, list the lessons learned, and incorporate them into the plan and manual after every exercise, incident, or drill.
Make sure the ARG is part of all county trainings and tabletops.
Take advantage of any state level trainings or tabletops you can manage to get invited to attend!
Watch for conferences, such as the one presented by HSUS, and try to send the Incident Commander plus one other representative. Have them present what they learned to the group.
Watch for trainings offered by large animal rescue groups. Send the Incident Commander and one other representative; have them report what they learned to the group.
Encourage veterinarians and veterinary technicians associated with your ARG to obtain some of their Continuing Education on disaster response topics.