ESSEX, Md. (WJZ/AP) –Preparing for a disaster. People in Baltimore County did just that.

Weijia Jiang explains the focus was on saving people, as well as pets.

At Eastern Technical High School in Baltimore County, emergency responders gave dozens of volunteers a new kind of education.

Wednesday marked Baltimore County’s annual drill to set up shelters in case of a disaster.

“Everyone should have an emergency plan,” said Lt. Mark Demski, Baltimore County EMS.

Participants practiced how they would manage people who are evacuated from their homes—from providing healthcare to simply giving them a place to rest.

“Our saying for a shelter is it’s a life boat not a cruise ship,” Demski said. “They’re going to be safe, out of harm’s way, but not all the comforts. We provide food, we provide a roof and things like that to keep them alive.”

Volunteers are not only training how to take care of people, they’re also learning how to deal with pets.

This is one of the only shelters in the area that accepts animals during an emergency.

“When an emergency comes along they have a go-kit ready for their pets, with food, supplies, emergency medicines,” said Mark Clark, Baltimore Co. Health Department. “Don’t stay home because you think there’s no place for your pets. That was a problem in other disasters.”

Volunteers hope knowing the drill will help their neighbors.

“It’s very important to know these things ’cause we never know what’s gonna happen. Just because it happens to others doesn’t mean it can’t happen to us,” said Stephanie Cherry, volunteer.

Most recently the group opened a shelter back in November when a tornado forced dozens of people out of their apartments.

The county also expects to host a training session next month in Woodlawn to teach residents critical skills needed in the first 72 hours after a disaster strikes.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)