Hurricane Irma - Critical Incident Updates
Our sanctuary is closed to the public as we are engaged in the Post-Critical Event phase of our plan.
If you are interested in volunteering, please send an email to BirdMother@flabirdsanctuary.org or go to our website for additional volunteering information.
We were so blessed during this tragic event to have the volunteer man power and the supplies necessary to ensure the safety of our 750+ birds. All of our birds are safe and they were fed twice prior to hurricane and feeding resumed as normal the day after. Their second meal included the high protein diet cooked up by our Bird Mother in advance.
Irma started hammering the sanctuary at about 4 PM on Sunday (with winds up to 85 MPH), but by Monday afternoon we were able to resume fairly normal routines. Although our birds were safely sheltered, they still experienced what we did, the noise of the howling winds and torrential rain—but they were so brave—and if there is a bright spot to be found it is this: As extremely intelligent creatures… and many that are prolific talkers… there were quite a few choruses of “Old McDonald”, wolf whistles and calls for apples heard from the shelter!
As of Wednesday, we still have no power at the sanctuary and we are running on generators. Unfortunately, gas is hard to come by and we have begun to use our reserve supply. We are monitoring local gas station openings and sending staff and volunteers to stock up as much as we can. We are using generators for powering fans, lighting, and other critical resources.
Our evacuation process went smoothly, but we learned a few things during the process. One significant learning is that even in a 24-hour period they will keep themselves busy… and the birds sheltered in plastic carriers for the evacuation got busy and chewed holes in them! We will need to immediately replace all plastic cage/carriers with metal cage/carriers—and that’s about 500 cage/carriers. On a side note, we will also be adjusting our “evacuation carrier” requirements for new parrots coming to our sanctuary—and will now require that they come with a metal cage equipped with a perch, water bottle and feeder.
On Monday, we started the clean-up and restoration part of our Critical Event Plan:
- We immediately set-up generators to start fans, etc. (it is HOT here… about 92 degrees or so during the day)
- We called in our cage engineers to inspect all flight cages and aviaries and they made repairs on two of them.
- We inspected all other facilities, which were OK, but unfortunately the fence surrounding our property (that keeps the bird’s safe) is a total loss and we’re going to need to replace it ASAP.
- We then relocated our birds back to their flight cages and aviaries.
- We’re calling in a grounds company to help us remove tree branches and other debris from the grounds. Understandably, there is a high-demand for them at the moment, so we hope to have assistance by Saturday.
And, of course we are feeding our amazing workforce of staff and volunteers, many of whom do not have power at their own residences, that are selflessly helping transform the sanctuary back to normal operating condition.
I really want to thank everyone for the pre-event donations which helped us cover most of our phase 1 and 2 expenses. Words are not enough to express our gratitude. For those that have started inquiring about our post-event expenses, we are unfortunately anticipating unexpected expenses in the $35,000 range to cover:
- Our sanctuary perimeter fencing. As we have a large 5+ acre sanctuary we got an initial quote of $23,000 to replace it (sigh). This is one of our highest priorities as it keeps animal (and unfortunately misguided human) predators out of the sanctuary. Right now, we have a human security force that is guarding the sanctuary at night.
- Our sanctuary security cameras were damaged or blown away during the high winds. Again, a high priority for the security of our birds.
- Repairs that were necessary to two aviaries. The good news is that ALL of our flight cages and aviaries are constructed in the most secure manner possible and this is why we invest upwards of 30K on each enclosure. Our cage engineers also need to put back the shade covers that we had them remove prior to the storm.
- We need to feed our workforce of staff and volunteers who are working 10 hours a day, and pay extra staff that we called in.
- And this is perhaps the hardest one to write, but we do need to stock up on bird food and supplies for the next potential hurricane as this clearly could be an active hurricane season—we still have two months to go (sigh). This includes immediate replacement of all plastic cage/carriers with metal cage/carriers (about 500).
In closing (and at the risk of repetition). We will never forget the remarkable impact from a group of staff, volunteers and supporters—spread across this great country—that were bonded together by love and concern for our birds. This is an unforgettable experience for us and our words cannot begin to express our gratitude TO EACH AND EVERYONE OF YOU. For those of you who wanted to be here but couldn’t… thank you for your words of encouragement and prayers—they went farther than you can imagine. Many of our staff and volunteers are living without power or water, but they are continuing to come in and help us to ensure that our daily routines are resumed as soon as possible. They are champions.
We are beyond happy to say that ALL of our 700+ parrots survived Hurricane Irma.
We could not have done this without our critical incident planning—and most importantly – without the support of our staff, volunteers and financial supporters.
As of midday Sunday, we have no power at the sanctuary, so we are using our generators. We have started our post-critical event phase of our plan. First and foremost, we are immediately checking all enclosures and other facilities for structural issues. We will also be checking our perimeter fencing as we have already identified some visible signs of breaches from the 80+ mile an hour winds over a several hour period. We will keep you updated as we get through the rest of the week.
We will also be posting a blog this week that tells the story of the 24-hours before the storm… and the remarkable impact of a group of staff, volunteers and supporters—from across this great country--bonded together by our love and concern for the birds.
This is an unforgettable experience for us and our words cannot begin to express our gratitude.
Hi Everyone. WE WILL BE STARTING EVACUATION EARLY THIS MORNING.
I will send an update out mid-day on our progress.
WE ARE LOOKING FOR SOME VOLUNTEERS. IF YOU ARE IN THE HUDSON AREA ... AND YOU HAVE A FEW HOURS AVAILABLE TODAY (SATURDAY) FROM 10:00 AM TO 2:00 PM, PLEASE EMAIL ME AT:
You will be helping us move and stack cages.
We are still monitoring the projected path of Hurricane Irma on an hourly basis. As its trajectory and full impact on the Tampa Bay area will not be fully known until early Saturday, our Critical Event Plan remains in full effect.
In advance preparation, we are continuing to assemble cage/carriers and have issued an "all hands on deck" starting at 8 AM tomorrow.
We will first meet with our core team and then expect volunteers will arrive starting about 10 AM. During our core meeting, we will assess potential wind speeds and rain accumulation and start evacuating the birds if necessary.
Please understand that we will all be engaged (including myself who writes these updates)... so please be patient and expect an update later tomorrow (afternoon or evening.)
THANK YOU TO EVERYONE FOR YOUR KIND WORDS AND FINANCIAL SUPPORT.
We are monitoring the projected path of Hurricane Irma on an hourly basis. As its trajectory and full impact on the Tampa Bay area will not be fully known until early Saturday, our Critical Event Plan remains in full effect.
Pre-storm preparation comes in three parts. As you have followed our updates, we have shown part one procedures for stocking up on food and water; fueling and testing generators; trimming trees and clearing brush and debris from the sanctuary grounds; testing water pumps and wet vacs; fueling vehicles and preparing evacuation trailers; moving catch nets and gloves where they are easily accessible; having several preparedness meetings with our staff per day etc.
The second part, which we are beginning today, is both preparing cooked food and vegetables and assembling temporary bird cage/carriers. Each cage/carrier is equipped with a perch, toys, water bottle and no spill/ automatic feeder.
Prepared foods introduce a high carb diet including pasta, bird vitamins, cooked frozen veggies and a variety of beans. We have already prepared 13 gallons to be fed to the birds on top of their regular diet—which is a four day supply.
The third part is the evacuation of the birds into our hurricane facility should it be necessary. In such an event, our staff and numerous volunteers will be on hand to work with Patricia Norton (and other trained bird catchers) to catch each bird, place it in a carrier and transport it to the hurricane facility.
We start with the smaller parrots and systematically work our way up to the largest birds. We do this because should winds start to occur during the evacuation, the larger birds have talons on their feet that provide an amazing 275 psi of grip strength. This means they can safely land on a perch and their talons will reflexively close upon contact and remain closed by default, without added expenditure of energy, until our bird catchers place them in a carrier.
We are fueling and testing our generators should they be required.
We use 65 gallons of water PER Day at the Sanctuary for our birds, dogs and chickens.
Accordingly, we are preparing a 455-gallon water supply.
We have enough 55-gallon water drums for a 7-DAY supply of water, in addition to bottled water for staff and volunteers.
All brush and debris has been cleared from inside and immediately outside of the Sanctuary grounds.
All loose objects, such as ladders, hoses and power washers, will be secured in our metal facilities building.
Our flight cages and aviaries meet hurricane code (withstanding winds of 110 mph) with supporting structures ground-secured in concrete.
A professional arborist (tree trimmer) has pruned all trees.
There is some good news here. Our Sanctuary property is 22 feet above sea level.
We have built all flight cages and aviaries on the higher portion of our property where water drains away from the structures.
Additionally, we have a predominantly sandy soil that drains quickly.
We have pumps and wet vacs should we need them to clear excess water from our grounds, flight cages, aviaries and/ or shelter facility.
WE ARE STOCKING UP ON PARROT, DOG AND CHICKEN FOOD.
The food is stored in a weather proof, heavy-duty shipping container. Thank you to our FEBS team for their dedication and outstanding response and to Tammy at Pet Supplies Plus in New Port Richey for delivering the food so quickly.
With the hurricane season well upon us, and the threat of disruption from Hurricane Irma, we wanted to provide an update on our FEBS Critical Incident Hurricane and Disaster Plan—and make an early request for volunteers that would be able to assist us should our sanctuary experience such as event.
Our documented plan provides step-by-step information to build the necessary response capability in the event of a disaster at the Florida Exotic Bird Sanctuary. The intent of this plan is not only for FEBS stakeholders (employees, board members and volunteers)—but also to provide adequate information for community resources, including emergency response leaders, animal resources and other local and county volunteers.
We believe that it is best to be overly cautious when a disaster advisory or warning has been issued. Preparing ahead of time and acting quickly are the best ways to keep our birds out of danger. Our plan covers several types of disasters that could impact the sanctuary and/ or the surrounding areas including flooding, fires, hurricanes, tornadoes and other severe weather (such as windstorms and lightning).
In addition to the physical impact of the disaster, FEBS must be prepared for the possible disruption of services for extended periods of time, including gas, electricity, phone (cellular and land lines), internet service, and local sources of food, water and fuel.
As our plan is quite lengthy (over 60 pages long), we would like to cover some of the salient points within it that include:
A current list of emergency contacts, including staff, our veterinarian, board members, fire and police departments, animal control, FEMA, the public health department, food suppliers, utility and security companies, etc.
A multi-day and/or hour schedule of preparations as for many events, we are fortunate to have several day advance warnings. Although each type of emergency may dictate deviations from the schedule, we have prepared a guideline of emergency preparedness events and timeframes.
FEBS Evacuation Kits and guidelines for assembling, storing and using kit items. This is perhaps one of the most critical elements of our plan as it details items that we keep on hand in a basic emergency kit as well as a bird specific kit. Examples of items in the bird specific kit include a SEVEN-DAY supply of food and clean water; a cage/carrier for each bird (that has a perch, toys, water bottle and no spill/ automatic feeder); handling gloves and catch nets; cloth covers to keep the birds warm if necessary; and cage cleaning supplies.
Some of our guidelines for the Bird Kits are to keep all kit contents in easy-to-carry, waterproof containers that are labeled in permanent marker with FEBS contact information and replacing the food, water, and medications as often as needed to maintain quality and freshness and in accordance with expiration dates. We also have clear instructions for how to equip each cage/carrier with perches, toys, water bottles and feeders. We also have documented instructions on how to evacuate birds from every type of sanctuary enclosure, including flight cages, aviaries and free-standing cages in our intake/ quarantine facility.
In the event that an evacuation is necessary, we relocate the birds to a safe facility that is located adjacent to our sanctuary. This facility is equipped with generators, electrical cords, fans, lights on timers, folding tables (to elevate cages in the event of a significant flooding event), wet vac and pumps, and of course this is where we house bird cage/carriers.
Post disaster procedures, including ensuring that the sanctuary has fully-functioning electricity and water; checking all aviaries, flight cages and indoor cages to ensure they are safe, secure and have perches and toys; and examining each bird closely (and contacting our veterinarian immediately if we observe injuries or signs of illness).
Our plan also covers emergency procedures for the dogs and chickens that reside at FEBS, as well as for our business office, caretaker residence and other facilities we use for storing food and supplies.