We hear about natural disasters around the world and the impact they have. Families, communities, local and global economies, are all desperately affected by the powerful forces of Mother Nature. We can’t stop disasters, but we can be prepared! This is your disaster preparedness guide and it’s not just for humans. It’s for our entire family, fur-babies, and pets of all kinds.
The Disaster Kit
This is a staple for any preparedness plan and the best starting place. If we do nothing else, this should be in place. Everything our pets need will be in one place so we can grab the bag and get to safety. It’s easy enough to assemble. Here’s what we all need to include aside from human basics:
- Include a list of pets along with pictures and descriptions.
- Have an up-to-date list of all medications and special needs pets may have
- Add the names and contact information of their veterinarians
- If they have mobility or behavior issues, this should be included in a brief list of “about this pet.”
- Include a week or two worth of medications they may be on and set an alarm in your calendar to rotate these with fresh prescriptions every time their medication is updated or before the expiration.
- Include a small supply of their favorite treats, food, and several bottles of fresh water. Water, in particular, is not something we want to run out of.
- Add a toy or tennis ball or something we can use to help ourselves and our pets relax. Cats and dogs need mental relief and playtime just like kids and the rest of us.
- Basic first aid items, such as an irrigation solution and wraps to clean and bandage any wounds that may occur from broken glass or debris.
Shelters will have food and water for them, but the point of a disaster bag includes three scenarios: (1) We end up trapped in our homes or neighborhood waiting for rescue, a common case in flooded areas, for example. (2) We need to evacuate with our pets and may not be able to reach a shelter right away. (3) We may not be home when something happens, so an accessible bag for first responders can help them understand our pets needs until we can be reunited.
The Home Prep
There is plenty we can do to prepare our homes for natural disasters, but don’t forget the little things we can do to help our pets and first responders with rescue efforts.
- Add a sticker to the window of the front door. The ASPCA has a highly recognizable sticker that can be ordered for the price of a small donation. Or it’s free if you take the disaster preparedness pledge.
- Put up something on the fence or in a front window that will alert people from the street that there are pets in this home. It can be friendly or disguised as a warning. Something as basic as a “beware of dog” sign or the more whimsical, “beware of cat” will do the trick.
- Something inside the front door indicating pets and the most immediate concerns first responders need to be aware of can be hung on the wall in a decorative way. This option from Etsy is one example. There’a place for our pet’s name and a phrase with one or two things people should know, such as “Petunia is old and has trouble walking, but loves people and snuggles.”
- Do a house and yard audit every year to make sure fences are intact, and tree branches are trimmed back. One of the biggest causes of injury and runaways during natural disasters are fallen branches that injure our pets or break fences.
The Pet Prep
It’s not like we can sit down and have a talk with our pets, the way we can with kids, to let them know where to go or who to look for to get help in case of an emergency. But we can help them in other ways.
- Be sure all pets have up-to-date IDs. Layer the identification process. Include a collar ID, a microchip, and consider other options like GPS devices and digital ID tags. This helpful article from Vet-Organics covers identification options.
- Find an “In Case of Emergency” pet buddy. Chances are, there is someone in each of our neighborhoods who loves animals as much as we do. If we set up a check-in system and emergency plan with someone who lives nearby, we’ll have someone to stop by our home and grab our pets in the case of an emergency evacuation and vice versa. Spell out what will happen and where to meet-up.
- Identify a longer-term caregiver or foster family in case we are injured, and our pets need a place to live for a while where they’ll be well-cared for.
- Know where to go if an evacuation order is given. We can use this tool to find the nearest Red Cross emergency shelter. Remember, if we evacuate we take our pets because if it isn’t safe for us, it certainly isn’t safe for them. It’s a misconception that pets “find a way” in disasters.
- Know the area and the types of disasters that can happen. This will help us choose the right items to pack and the right routes to take. We should also keep a list of local shelters on-hand.
According to Jenelle Vail, DVM, who has been practicing veterinary medicine for over 14 years, “When people and pets are evacuated there are designated sheltering areas that they will be housed at. Dogs, cats, and other small pets will generally be housed at a shelter. For instance, the Humane Society of Boulder Valley often takes in evacuees from fires. Large animals and livestock will often be held at a larger facility such as the Boulder County Fairgrounds. Veterinarians are on site to help evaluate the animals and make sure they are treated for injuries or illness.”
The Post Disaster Plan
- Leash pets after a disaster. Familiar landmarks are gone and smells are unfamiliar. We can help keep our pets safe if we keep them close. Plus, dangerous animals, downed power lines, and other hazards will be present.
- Be patient with pets and watch for signs of trauma. Humans can experience anxiety and stress during these times, but at least we know what has happened. For our pets, it’s a completely different and much more terrifying experience. They may react in surprising ways and develop behavioral changes. We need to do what we can to provide stability and demonstrate safety and comfort while they lean on their resilience and find ways to adapt and cope.
Send us pics of your animal disaster relief kit for National Animal Disaster Preparedness Day on May 8th. Use #VOdisasterprepared
May 8th is National Animal Disaster Preparedness Day. FEMA made this an important day to audit our preparedness plans with our pets in mind as an answer to the 2005 Hurricane Katrina. At that time, pets and animals were not included in rescue efforts except by private organizations who joined relief efforts. Now FEMA and other agencies have joined the call for animal inclusion in rescues, but we can’t leave everything up to them. It’s our job as guardians to be prepared and have everything in order to ensure the best possible outcome. This Disaster Preparedness Guide is a great start.
Send us pictures of your animal disaster relief kit!
In an emergency situation or natural disaster, stress and emotions run high. Vet Organics recommends this Disaster Preparedness Guide along with packing EcoBalance® Calming Extra-Strength Liquid for Dogs & Cats in our emergency kits and to have on-hand, post-disaster. We can’t avoid all emergencies, but we can be prepared.