by Karen Sable, Guest Columnist
September is “National Preparedness Month,” which was started in 2004 by FEMA and the Dept. of Homeland Security to encourage Americans to prepare for and respond to emergencies. With that in mind, this is a timely opportunity to ask yourself if you have a good Emergency/Disaster Plan for your family which includes any pets you may have.
If you had to quickly evacuate your home, and possibly be unable to return for an extended period, do you have a “Go Kit” stocked and ready for you and your pets that would enable you to be self-sufficient for at least 5-7 days? Do you know where you could/would go with your pets ? If you lost all power and were unable to leave your home for some time (remember “Snowmageddon” ), would you and your pets have enough food, water, medications, and other supplies to be able to wait out the emergency? If you were not at home when an emergency occurred, or were unable to get home for some reason, have you made arrangements with someone who would be able to get to and care for your pets? These are all questions you need to answer before an emergency or disaster happens!
When you hear the word disaster or emergency, you may immediately think about the kind of natural disasters you see on TV, like tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, and major flooding. But emergencies that may require evacuation, that may prevent you from getting home, or that may strand you inside your home, aren’t just limited to big natural disasters. Think about what you and your pets would do if:
- A construction crew digging in the area ruptures a large gas line, or a train carrying a toxic substance derails on nearby tracks, and your neighborhood must immediately be evacuated;
- There’s an explosion in a nearby gas well, factory, or power plant and the Fire Dept. comes knocking at your door and orders you to leave;
- A sudden storm hits while you are at work, flooding and closing roads, and making it impossible for you to get home to let your dog out, feed the cats, or give them needed medication;
- A major snow/ice storm hits, knocking out power, and making the roads impassible. It may be days before power is restored or you can leave your home.
Make your plan ahead of time
If you had to evacuate with your pets, shelter at home for some period, or provide for your pet’s safety and care in your absence, do you have a plan in place?
The following recommendations and guidelines are intended to help pet parents prepare for an emergency or disaster so that if/when one occurs, you can greatly increase your pet’s chances of survival:
Arrange with a trusted neighbor, nearby friend, or family member to be responsible for your pet in case you are not home, or are not able to get home. Make sure they have the key to your house and are familiar with and comfortable with your pets. If evacuation is necessary, ensure that they are willing to take your pets, know the location of your pet carriers, crates, leashes, etc., as well as your pet emergency “go-kit.” Pre-arrange how/where you would meet, and exchange emergency contact information, including places where your pets would be welcome and could be temporarily sheltered .
Since evacuation shelters for people generally do not accept pets (except for service animals), you must plan ahead to make sure you know where your pets would have a safe place to stay once evacuated. While state and local governments are required to include companion animals in their emergency plans, that does not mean that any shelter provided for pets will be with or even near the human shelters. Could a friend or family member a safe distance away take in you and your pets? Research, locate, and make a list of any pet friendly hotels where you and your pets could go. In an emergency, some hotels which do not normally allow pets will waive their “no pets” policy, but you need to find that out ahead of time. Include on your list any boarding facilities, kennels, animal shelters, or veterinary offices/hospitals which could provide temporary shelter for your pets.
Make sure that your pet is wearing up-to-date identification information at all times. This includes listing not just your home phone number on their tag, but also your cell phone number, or even the number of a friend or relative outside of your area. If your pet were to become lost, you want to make sure that the contact number on their tag will be answered even if you are not at home.