Zoo Ready

Zoo Ready was a collaborative ZAHP program led by Dr. Yvette Johnson-Walker at the University Of Illinois College Of Veterinary Medicine in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois.  Zoo Ready was created based on the success of Flu at the Zoo, which brought together United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), The University of Illinois Veterinary School, Association of Zoos and Aquariums and Lincoln Park Zoo. 

The goal of Zoo Ready was to engage the zoological community to increase preparedness for all hazards. Objectives of the program included:

  • Promoting communication across all stakeholder groups prior to a disease or other emergency incident that impacts a zoological facility
  • Providing training and exercises for the zoological community
  • Continuing development of Zoo Ready exercises

Zoo Ready 2014 

The first Zoo Ready exercise, conducted in 2014, was designed to bring together Illinois zoos with State and Federal regulatory personnel in a complicated Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza outbreak simulation.  This exercise is consistent with the standard Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) multi-year exercise cycle in which lessons learned from prior exercises (in this case Flu at the Zoo II) are used to build a frame-work for the development of training and remediation materials whose effectiveness is then evaluated with a subsequent exercise.

Zoo Ready 2015

Training and exercises on avian influenza preparedness in the exotic animal industry confirmed the need to take an ‘all-hazards’ approach to contingency planning for these facilities.   The next HSEEP compliant exercise developed focused on the impact and preparedness for natural disasters, specifically, a tornado. Maps and storm trajectories for individual players were created, and the exercise was delivered in Modules via the on-line Food SHIELD platform.  The following exercise objectives were considered during scenario development:

  • Demonstrate the facility’s ability to prepare for natural hazards 
  • Demonstrate the communication system within their facility
  • Demonstrate the facility’s ability to communicate with first responders
  • Demonstrate the facility’s ability to work with the Incident Command System
  • Demonstrate the ability for facility personnel to work with Emergency Operation Plans for their facility.
  • Demonstrate the facility’s ability to deal with long-term consequences after a disaster.

Five modules were developed, and questions were asked of the players that focused on visitor and staff safety.  The exercise specifically avoided asking about escaped or wounded animals.  The focus was on life, health and human safety, the primary objective for ALL incident management.

Documents from both Zoo Ready exercises are available for use on the exercises page of this website.


The Zoo Ready Team 

Yvette Johnson-Walker, DVM, PhD

Dr. Yvette Johnson-WalkerYvette Johnson-Walker received Bachelor’s Degrees in Animal and Veterinary Sciences from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 1987.  She received her DVM in 1989 and a Master’s in Veterinary Clinical Medicine in 1993 both also from the University of Illinois.  In 1998, she completed a PhD in Analytical Epidemiology from Michigan State University.  She is currently a Clinical Epidemiologist at the University of Illinois, College of Veterinary Medicine in the Center for One Health Illinois. 

Yvette has conducted several training and response exercises for public health professionals in association with the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District and the Center for One Health Illinois.  She has served as the primary cooperator for a 4 year series of USDA funded projects: Flu at the Zoo – A Tabletop Exercise of Avian Influenza Outbreak Response in Zoos and Aquariums; Flu at the Zoo II: Emergency Preparedness Training and Functional Exercise of FAD Outbreak Response in Zoos and Aquariums; Zoo Ready US: National Emergency Preparedness and Functional Exercises of FAD Outbreak Response in Zoos and Aquariums and the current project: Zoo Ready 15.  She is also a member of the Biosecurity, Protection, and Visitation Work Group of the Secure Zoo Program and the University of Illinois-Urbana Infectious Disease Working Group that is charged with development and coordination of the UIUC campus response to an infectious disease outbreak.

Gay Y. Miller, DVM, PhD

Gay Y. Miller, DVM, PhDGay Y. Miller, DVM, PhD is a Professor, and Division Chair of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine at the College of Veterinary Medicine, and an  Adjunct Professor of both  Veterinary Clinical Medicine and  Agricultural and Consumer Economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign. Her research and service focus on Foreign Animal Disease (FAD) prevention, preparedness, and response.  This work began with a 2006-2007 AAAS Fellowship in the National Veterinary Stockpile, National Center for Animal Health Emergency Management, Riverdale, MD. 

Dr. Miller’s primary interests are on the economic implications of FAD outbreaks in food producing animals, how different prevention and response strategies can influence both the epidemiological and economic outcomes of FADs, and applications that could promote business continuity for industry while simultaneously improving overall outcomes for consumers/trading partners and FAD outbreak management. Results from her recent projects modeling an outbreak of FMD in Minnesota using vaccination as a component of the response strategy will appear in the following:

♦ Miller, G.Y., Gale, S.B., Eshelman, C.E., Well, S.J.  Emergency Vaccination Use in a Modeled Foot-and-Mouth Disease Outbreak in Minnesota; Revue Scientifique et Technique de l’Office International des Epizootie, December 2015, 34(3). 

♦ Conducted Risk Assessment of FMD from importation of live animals to the United States.  Miller, G.Y., Ming, J., Williams, I. Gorvett, R.  Probability of Foot and Mouth Disease from Live Animal Importation into the United States.  Revue Scientifique et Technique de l’Office International des Epizootie, 2012, 31(3):777-787. 

Gene Field 

Gene FieldGene Field has worked in emergency management for the past thirty-five years.  Mr. Field is a retiree from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA).  During his career at IEMA, he responded to many major disasters and emergencies. His principal areas of expertise include agro terrorism preparedness, food safety/security, exercise design, ICS training delivery and emergency plan development for natural and man-made hazards. He has also been responsible for coordination and delivery of the “Zoo Ready” exercise initiatives.   Mr. Field is a graduate from the University of Saint Francis in Joliet IL with a BS in Health Arts.  He and his family have a farm in Macoupin County IL near the town of Girard.

Keith Gehrand 

Keith GehrandCurrently working in emergency management, Mr. Gehrand is a retired police captain, state trainer, and consultant.  After 27 years of police work, rising from the rank of patrol officer to Captain, Keith has a wide variety of experiences serving in patrol, investigations, public relations/education, and retiring as a division commander in 2007.  Since his retirement, Mr. Gehrand has been involved in training for a variety of state agencies including the Illinois Fire Service Institute, Illinois Emergency Management Agency, and the School and Campus Security Training Program under the Illinois Terrorism Task Force.

Mr. Gehrand has been a private consultant to schools, universities/colleges, and private businesses on emergency planning and response.  He has developed and facilitated a variety of emergency drills, table top exercises, and full scale exercises in a variety of venues.

Keith Gehrand is a graduate of Illinois State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Education/Sports Medicine, and graduate work in Criminal Justice Sciences.  He is a graduate of Northwestern University’s 46th School of Police Staff and Command (1991), and a wide assortment of training and classes from federal, state, and regional training programs.  He has authored eight articles and has been a speaker at national, state, and regional conferences.

He is currently the Safety and Emergency Services Consultant at Heartland Community College in Normal, Illinois where he oversees the development and implementation of all phases of the emergency planning for the College and its three campuses.

Matt Bryan

Matt BryanMatt Bryan served in the U.S. Army, 1St Cavalry Division as a Military Police Investigator based in Ft. Hood Texas and received an Honorable Discharge in 1979. In 1980 joined the Decatur Police Department and in 2004 retired as a Master Patrol Officer.   Mr. Bryan was also a volunteer fire fighter for 14 years.   He established Applied Safety Consulting Inc., in 2003 and has provided numerous OHSA based safety training and emergency response courses to companies throughout the U.S. and Canada. In 2004 became an Associate Field Staff Instructor for the Illinois Fire Service Institute and instructed classes in the National Incident Management (NIMS), Basic Concepts of Terrorism, and Large Animal Rescue Awareness.   In 2008, was given a part-time position as a NIMS/ICS Program Manager at the Illinois Fire Service Institute.  In 2014 he worked as an evaluator for Flu at the Zoo and in 2015 presented at the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) conference in Columbia, South Carolina.  He is currently a member of the exercise development team for Zoo Ready 2015.  Degrees include an Associate’s Degree in Fire Science, Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management.  He obtained the certification of Professional Development Series from FEMA and the State of Illinois.   He is also a Master Exercise Practitioner as well as an Illinois Professional Emergency Manager.  Mr. Bryan is the lead Planning Section Chief for the Illinois Type 3 Incident Management Team and has been deployed on numerous incidents.

Emily W. Lankau, DVM, PhD

Emily W. Lankau (DVM, PhD) is a veterinary epidemiologist focused on health concerns at the wildlife-human interface. She is owner and operator of LandCow Consulting in Madison, WI where she provides technical and logistical support to zoo, non-profit, university, and pharmaceutical industry clients. She also performs research on disease ecology and prevention in wildlife and agricultural systems with collaborators at the University of Georgia and University of Wisconsin-Madison. Prior to opening her consulting business, Emily served as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine.

Yvonne Nadler, DVM, MPH

Yvonne Nadler DVM MPH is the Program Manager for the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s (AZA) ZAHP Fusion Center.  ZAHP (pronounced “ZAP”) roughly stands for Zoo and Aquarium All Hazards Preparedness Response and Recovery Fusion Center.  The Center is a joint project between AZA and the United States Department of Agriculture, designed to be a conduit for information and training opportunities for the managed wildlife community.  Yvonne previously was employed by Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, where she led the Zoo Animal Health Network in disease preparedness programs and surveillance for highly pathogenic avian influenza.  While at Lincoln Park, she also organized the Zoo Best Practices Working group for Disaster Preparedness and Contingency Planning.  She has developed and conducted several tabletop and virtual exercises for the zoological community.  She is currently is on the Executive Board of the National Alliance of State Animal and Agricultural Emergency Programs (NASAAEP).