Hurricanes are scary for everyone. June first marks the beginning of hurricane season, which means hurricane preparedness season is now! Here is the fur-family starter action plan for hurricane preparedness to get cat and canine guardians ahead of the storm.
Before the Storm
Emergency plans are the backbone of any successful family safety effort. Hurricanes can strike with little warning and can make sudden changes in direction, striking islands and coastlines that weren’t expecting the full force of a hurricane. In fact, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has calculated a 70 percent change the Atlantic will be threatened with six to 11 storms in a single season. That’s a lot of opportunity for even the smallest beach to end up with surprise gail force winds, or worse, even if they haven’t been hit in decades.
Make sure vaccinations are current. Many evacuation shelters don’t accept pets, but if they do, having a complete vaccination record and the right tags on our kitty and canine collars is an important way to avoid being turned away.
Have an appropriately-sized carrier ready. Part of having a plan means we are avoiding a last minute scramble where we throw pets, clothes, and rations into the back of the car. Some pets require a carrier. This isn’t the tiny carrier one might use to place a cat or small dog under the seat in an airplane for an hour or two. The appropriate size is a carrier in which your cat or small canine can stand up and turn around.
Locate and list safe, animal-friendly places. One of the most common phrases from professionals and experts is, “if it isn’t safe for you, it isn’t safe for your pets.” Planning means you won’t be faced with the prospect of endangering your pets by leaving them at home while you evacuate. However, not all emergency shelters allow pets. Create a list now. Find the specialized pet shelters, animal control shelters, veterinary clinics, friends and family in safe zones, and other potential refuges. A good place to start is to call the family vet or local shelter to see if they have suggestions. They may already have a list ready. Do not rely on one place. Have a list ready. That ways if one or two places are already full or have had to evacuate, you’ll still have options.
Find places where you and the fur-babies can take refuge together. In the worst possible conditions, you may need to head to an emergency FEMA shelter. That means creating a list of places you can take your pet during the evacuation is important. Don’t skip that step. Once you’ve identified safe places you can leave your pet, make a list of the most likely places you and your pet can shelter together. Contact local hotels, and those just outside your immediate area to ask about pet policies. Know their restrictions, such as limitations on the number of pets, size, and species.
Have an emergency bag packed and stored near the primary exit. A list of what to pack is included in part two of this piece. Be sure to update information, medications, and other supplies every year. Hurricane preparedness means keeping the plan and supplies current.
Know the plans of those around you. Many cities have public emergency disaster and hurricane preparedness plans. They will often list locations that will be turned into shelters, rules about pets, and other helpful guides and suggestions specific to your area. It can also be helpful to have an open line of communication with friends, family, and neighbors. Knowing what resources can be shared and how everyone can work together is an important tool for resilience and confident self-reliance.
During the Storm
Once a disaster is imminent, it’s time to run through the action plan checklist. Calmly, but swiftly get to work. Remember, pets can sense their guardian’s fear and discomfort, which will make them more uncomfortable. To avoid the possibility of a pet running away in a sudden panic of uncertainty, it can be helpful to do an occasional drill with the entire family.
Call ahead to confirm shelter arrangements for you and your pets. Just in case phone lines will already be down, have a list of locations, addresses, and maps with directions on-hand.
Bring pets inside and get them ready. It may not be time to leave yet, but bringing them inside now means you won’t have to look for them or coax them into the house later when minutes matter more. Give them fresh water and maybe a meal, if it looks like there won’t be time for food at their regular mealtime.
Put those collars on, and attach the right information. Make sure cat and canine companions are wearing their collars with the most up-to-date information, including their home address, phone numbers, and vaccinations. It can also be useful to attach the phone and address of a friend or family member outside the affected zone, and the temporary shelter where they will be staying.
Double check all disaster supplies and place the go-bag by the door or in the car. The supply kit for you and your family is one of the most important parts of the planning phase, second only to the list of shelters and ways to get there. Take a second look and make sure everything is in place before leaving.
Having taken these hurricane preparedness steps and practiced the evacuation plan means you are already head and tail above the rest! Check out part two of this piece to make sure you are also prepared for the aftermath and how to keep yourself and your fur-family safe and secure.