A Code 3 volunteer comforts a rescued calf in Florida in 2017. (photo courtesy Code 3 Associates)

Riders on the Storm

by Lisa Truesdale

Like a Boy Scout, Longmont resident BART is always prepared. Unlike a Boy Scout, however, BART isn’t a boy or even a person at all. It is the 82-foot Big Animal Rescue Truck carrying rescue and disaster response equipment used by Code 3 Associates, a Longmont-based nonprofit that responds to animal emergencies across the country.

When disaster strikes, BART can be ready to go in just a few short hours, filled with Code 3’s “Riders on the Storm” volunteers plus three boats, a pickup truck, 80 cages and crates, portable corrals, a triage center, rescue equipment of all kinds, generators, 800 gallons of fresh water, and everything that up to 11 people require to sleep, bathe and eat for up to a week before needing to resupply.

BART, Code 3 Associates’ Big Animal Rescue Truck, is a whopping 82 feet long, with enough room inside
to carry boats, a truck, rescue equipment of all kinds and accommodations for up to 11 volunteers. (photo courtesy Code 3 Associates)

“BART has everything we need,” explained Jim Boller, Code 3’s disaster training coordinator and response team lead. “That way, we can get right to work in a zero-resource environment, and the jurisdictions that called us in don’t have to worry about us bothering them for resources that they probably don’t have available anyway.”

Although Code 3 takes a small staff and a number of volunteers to disaster sites—most recently to North Carolina after Hurricane Florence—they also rely on groups of trained volunteers across the country, including off-duty and retired police officers, firefighters, veterinarians and humane-society workers. They help rescue stranded and injured animals of all types and sizes, from cattle and horses to pet rabbits, focusing on the safety of the humans—those doing the rescuing and those being rescued—as well as the animals. They’re also trained in other areas of animal welfare and rescue, including animal-related crimes, puppy mills, exotic-animal smuggling and more, though hands-on animal rescue is just one half of Code 3’s mission.

“We rescue animals, yes, but we also teach others how to rescue animals,” Boller explained.

In partnership with CSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Code 3 offers classes and workshops nationwide to help first responders, animal control officers, veterinarians, technical animal rescue groups and others learn the skills needed to deal with animals during emergencies and disaster situations.

Additional volunteers are needed but they should be advised there is extensive training involved and potentially many nights away from home.

“I think the 2013 Boulder County floods were the only rescue effort I ever worked on where I got to sleep in my own bed each night,” Boller recalled.

He insists, though, that it’s all worth it. As a nonprofit, Code 3 is definitely not in it for the money. He and his fellow rescuers often work very long, tiring days in the pouring rain, working alongside devastated people who have lost their homes and all of their worldly possessions.

“We’re often able to reunite them with their animals, who might be all that they have left in their lives. Seeing the smiles on their faces is all the gratitude we ever need.”