It Is Not “If” It Is “When”: Get Prepared to Stay Ahead of Disaster


Carrie Fritz, Executive Director, Calgary Humane Society
Jill Gibson, Investigator, Calgary Humane Society
Sage Pullen McIntosh, General Manager of Community Relations, Calgary Humane Society


With the seemingly growing number of natural disasters affecting heavily-populated areas, it isn’t a matter of "if" there will be another emergency situation, it is a matter of "when". In light of the floods and wildfires that have impacted Alberta in the past several years, many animal welfare organizations have started the process of preparing for a large-scale emergency response in their area.

Now that we have learned how to build relationships with multiple levels of government and interested stakeholders and the importance of working as a team, Calgary Humane Society will share its experience during several recent disasters and will provide key takeaways for animal welfare organizations so they can be better prepared to provide an appropriate animal response when disaster strikes.

Based on our experience with the Slave Lake fire in 2011, the Calgary/High River Flood in 2013, and the Fort McMurray Wildfires in 2016, Calgary Humane Society will lead an interactive discussion on how they were able to offer support to affected areas during these times of crisis, with a specific focus on communication strategies, internal operations and logistical support for teams on the ground.


  1. What you need to prepare as an animal welfare organization in order to be responsive and be able to offer the necessary support to save animal lives. We will examine this from both an internal perspective (dealing with emergency situations within a shelter environment, such as disease outbreak, mass intake, etc.) and from an external perspective (dealing with natural disasters, such as fire and flood).
  2. What crisis communication strategies need to be employed to ensure key stakeholders receive consistent and effective communication to avoid potential confusion and misinformation.
  3. What does this support look like: from providing people, equipment, supplies and other resources to actual "boots on the ground" support. We will discuss the challenges faced and the improvements that have been made to increase effectiveness of this effort.


Carrie Fritz is the Executive Director of Calgary Humane Society and is a CGA-CPA, who attended the University of Calgary and Mount Royal University, obtaining her accounting designation in 1996. Since taking on the role of Executive Director, Carrie has focused on building a professional, highly-skilled team in order to further all aspects of animal welfare, inspiring the community to take on the challenges of animal welfare and teach them to be responsible pet owners. Carrie currently lives just south of Calgary, where she shares her home with her daughter, her three dogs and two rescue rabbits.

Jillian Gibson, a graduate of Lethbridge College's Criminology program, joined Calgary Humane Society's Protection and Investigations department in 2011. Since then, she has investigated thousands of animal cruelty files, most notably the high profile Willow Park muzzling (Camardi) case and the Riverfront Aquariums case, both of which, upon conviction, were given record-setting sentences.

Sage Pullen McIntosh joined Calgary Humane Society in February 2015. Previously, Sage spent 16 years working in both radio and television news as a reporter, anchor and producer. Sage holds her Master of Arts in Professional Communication through Royal Roads University in Victoria and has a passion for crisis communications and media relations. When not at work, Sage can be found camping with her family, walking her giant English Mastiff (Thor) or at the soccer field, dojo or gym with at least one of her very active kids.