Disasters are not an everyday occurrence but they can strike anywhere. You may never have to evacuate your home, but if you live in a floodplain, on a coastal area, or near an earthquake fault, you may be mistaken. The preparation you do in advance is critically important to your family’s safety, but don’t neglect to plan for your pets, as well. It will reward you with peace of mind knowing you planned as thoroughly as possible, you are well equipped, and your family and pets have an excellent chance of surviving the disaster – hurricane, flood, wildfire, hazardous material spills as well as man-made disaster.
If you have to evacuate, the most important thing you can do to protect them is – take them with you! If you’re evacuating because it’s not safe for you, it is not safe for your pets. They can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Animals left inside a home may be able to escape if the home sustains damage from the storm or looters. Then the animals must fend for themselves and must overcome exposure, starvation, predators, contaminated food or water, and accidents. Leaving a dog chained or tied up during a disaster is a death sentence. If you are going to leave, even if it’s only for a few hours, take your pets with you. You may not be able to return. Once you’ve left them they are on their own. If you are evacuating, leave early. If you wait and are ordered to evacuate, you may be told to leave your pets behind.
When you evacuate, bear in mind that most shelters accept only service animals. Contact hotels and motels outside your area to check on their policies about accepting pets. Would “no pet” policies be waived in the event of an emergency?
Contact your friends and relatives outside your area to see if they could shelter your animals. If not, get a list of veterinary offices or boarding shelters and include their 24 hour telephone numbers. Your last resort is to ask your local shelter if it can provide foster care or shelter for pets in an emergency.
If you don’t evacuate and your family and pets must wait out the storm or disaster at home, pick out a safest area in your home where you will all stay together. Keep the dogs on leashes and cats in carriers, and be sure they are wearing proper identification. Have a supply of pet food and water stored in water-proof containers, along with your other emergency supplies.
As the disaster nears, don’t wait until the last minute to get ready. Confirm your emergency shelter arrangements for you and your pets. Bring your pets inside and confine them in order to leave with then quickly if necessary. Be sure your disaster relief kits and supplies are ready to go, including your pet’s disaster kit.
It is possible that you may be at work or out of the house when the disaster strikes. Arrangements should be made well in advance so that a trusted neighbor can take your pets and meet you in a prearranged location. The person should have a key to your home, know where your disaster supplies are kept, and be comfortable with your pets.
Planning and preparation are going to help you weather the disaster, but your home could be totally different when you return. Your pets are going to have to familiarize themselves to a new environment where familiar landmarks and smells are no longer there. Be patient with your pets after a disaster and try to get them into a normal routine as quickly as possible. Be patient with them. Remember, they’re family.
Hal Johns is the founder of http://EmergencyReliefKits.com which offers emergency supplies, survival gear, and first aid kits. Our goal is to bring safety and peace of mind to families by helping them prepare for emergencies – natural and man-made.