We at the Aquarium go to great lengths to prepare for any natural disaster. Once a tropical storm or hurricane becomes a possible threat to Charleston, our team immediately springs into action. In fact, we commence preparation right when hurricane season begins. We start maximizing stocks of all animal diets the first of each month, we take a head count of all animals currently housed in the Aquarium and plan for their safe keeping during a storm. Oh, and meetings! Our team has lots and lots of meetings to ensure everything goes smoothly in the event of severe weather.
Needless to say, we were more than prepared when Hurricane Florence took form on the weather radar. Last week, we began installing metal panels over all of our glass windows, and collected any and all loose objects outside of the Aquarium, including chairs, waste baskets and other debris. We topped off all freshwater exhibits and freshwater back-up tanks as well as seawater exhibits and seawater back-up tanks. We gathered sandbags for distribution throughout the Aquarium. We ensured that all first-aid kits and veterinary supplies were amply stocked, and checked that all emergency response teams were ready to go, including our ROT and RT teams.
Members of our ROT (or Ride Out Team) volunteer to “ride out the storm” – these guys are superheroes. They volunteer to stay in the Aquarium building throughout a storm or other condition where continuous on-site staff support is critical to the welfare of the animals. Names of ROT members are submitted to the Charleston County and City Emergency Management Department so if one our ROT members needs help, an emergency vehicle can be at the ready. They have a list of all animal needs including drinking water, live food and produce and species-specific care instructions.
And don’t worry, ROT members have plenty of their own supplies for the hurricane, including non-perishable food, first-aid kits, drinking water, flash lights, phone chargers and of course, board games and cards to pass the time.
Once the storm is over, the ROT combines forces with the RT, or Recovery Team. RT helps restore the Aquarium to the best possible condition after a storm strike. They are the first to return after the storm has passed and are expected to do so as soon as possible. Both ROT and RT are well equipped and trained to provide the safest conditions for themselves as well as provide the best possible care to our animals during and throughout the recovery efforts. These teams are also provided with a list of emergency contact details for specialized veterinarians – as you know, we have some pretty unique animals who may require different care than a dog and cat veterinarian can provide!
Additionally, all Aquarium staff members were given an emergency card, phone trees and detailed instructions on how to prepare for a hurricane. Honestly, this is just a quick overview of the steps we take to prepare – our actual Hurricane & Severe Weather Plan is 71 pages long! So take heart in knowing our Aquarium family, human and animal alike, is well taken care of.
Please make sure your family is prepared, too. Know your zone and evacuation routes, prepare your home for storm impact, assemble your hurricane kit and keep in contact with your loved ones.
From our family to yours, stay safe out there!