No Pet Left Behind: Natural Disaster Preparation
Whether it’s a blizzard, hurricane, tornado or earthquake, natural disasters can happen with little to no notice. Most families who live in areas where these events are common, have developed a procedure for how to handle, prepare and survive the disaster, but not all families remember to make an emergency plan or kit for their animal companions. There are four key time periods to consider when planning for your pet.
Before the Disaster:
There are a few key things to have in place before there is even a storm warning on the horizon. First and foremost is to have your pet ID tagged. I would suggest having both a physical tag attached to your dog’s collar and also a microchip implanted under the skin. Having both methods of identification ensures your companion has the very best chance of being returned to you in the event of separation.
An emergency bag needs to be compiled as well. It should contain similar items you would consider for yourself: Enough food for 4-5 days, at least a gallon of fresh clean water, medical records, a leash/harness and pet toys. Storms and disasters are just as stressful for your pet as they are for you, so make sure you have a way to keep them from running away and relaxed as you weather the storm.
Additional precautions to be taken by families who often leave their pet home alone are Rescue Alert Stickers for your door and windows, and make arrangements with your neighbors, friends, vet or family to ensure your pet is taken care of in the event of your absence during a natural disaster.
Most importantly, if you decide to evacuate, take your pet with you. If the area isn’t safe for you, it is all the more dangerous for your scared companion. Storm damage to your house can create escape routes, and tethering or crating your dog is as good as a death sentence.
During the Storm:
If you decide to stay and wait out the storm, make sure you bring your pets in early; don’t wait for the warnings or local authorities’ advisory broadcasts. Follow this checklist of steps to ensure you’re prepared for the storm:
• Have your dog’s emergency supplies collected and placed with your own in a safe room
• Close off all escape avenues to ensure your dog doesn’t bolt out of the house in a panic
• Have your dog’s collar with ID tag and leash attached at all times in preparation for evacuation (cats should be in their carriers)
• Listen to the radio for updates on the storm and be prepared to evacuate with your pets at a moment’s notice
• Know the location of the closest shelter or Red Cross base which accepts pets as well as people
After the Storm:
There is still considerable danger even after the disaster has passed. Debris can litter your yard, chemicals could have been spilled during the chaos, your fence or barrier could have been compromised and other scared animals might be roaming. To ensure your pet’s safety after the storm, keep him close and under control with a leash; your pet might still be very scared and unpredictable with the exposure to a new environment and strange smells.
Be patient with your companions after a disaster; they can suffer from PTSD in a similar manner to our own, but pets have fewer coping abilities than we do. Keep them close, be kind and loving, and try to reestablish their routines as quickly as possible.
Every Day Emergencies:
It’s important to have an established plan for your pets even if you don’t live in a natural disaster prone area. Many times a hard winter blizzard or other everyday emergency can prevent you from getting home for a long enough period of time to be damaging to your pets.
For everyday situations, make sure you have a backup caretaker who is familiar with your pets and with whom your pets are comfortable. Ensure they know your pets’ medical conditions, location of their food and equipment, and any other important details.
Heat is an especially dangerous element for your pets. They don’t cool off as easily as humans and can be severely hurt by just a couple of hours of exposure to hot temperatures. It is essential to have plenty of cool water and shade readily available to them whenever they are left alone; even for a short period of time.
It only takes 10-15 minutes to plan for your pet in the event of an emergency or natural disaster. As part of the family, they are your responsibility to care for and a few simple steps can mean life or death for one of your beloved pets. Remember: when you prepare beforehand, a disaster becomes much less of an emergency.