By Tamas Mondovics

The start of the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season began with a special recognition of Hillsborough County’s emergency planners and responders as the most prepared and skilled in the country.

According to the independent Emergency Management Accreditation Program (EMAP) the county’s emergency management program has achieved full accreditation. County officials said that the designation is the highest achievement in the emergency preparedness industry.

At the end of the year-long assessment process, which involves nearly every county department, and many other public, private, non-profit and volunteer organizations that partner with the county to carry out disaster preparedness, response and recovery efforts, the county also received a perfect score.

The review itself included 64 standards, and evaluated compliance with requirements in 16 areas, including planning; resource management, training, communications and warning, and administration.

The accreditation application was coordinated by the County’s Office of Emergency Management, a division of Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.

While being prepared for the next weather event is vital, attention to details including preparing dogs, cats and other pets is often left for last minute.

In an online release on the topic by representatives of BluePearl Veterinary Partners, all pet owners should make specific plans to keep themselves and their beloved animals safe during hurricanes or other natural disasters.

“Your pets are your responsibility just as much as the other members of your family,” said Sonja Olson, a senior clinician in emergency medicine for BluePearl. “And part of that responsibility is to be prepared.”

Tips to help pet owners include basic, common sense items such as making arrangements in advance with relatives who live in a safer area or in higher ground in flood-prone communities.

Other suggestions include getting familiar with pet-friendly emergency shelters; making sure to have pet carriers especially when pets include pythons, parrots and other exotic or unusual species; putting together a pet first aid kit which may include veterinary documents and all the medicines.

For info to prepare for a disaster, visit

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