As thousands of families struggled with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, many of them were also missing pets. Many people have plans to deal with emergencies for themselves, but fail to make arrangements for the animal members of their family. Whether it’s a small emergency such as a house fire, or a large emergency like a tornado, hurricane, flood or manmade disaster, advanced planning always gives the best chance of keeping all of your family members safe.
Start by talking with your family about what you will do in various situations. Responses to localized emergencies like fires, small storms and power outages will likely differ from emergency plans for large scale emergencies such as hurricanes, tornadoes and manmade attacks. Plan evacuation routes to designated meeting points.
These will vary based on the situation. If dealing with flooding, you’ll want to take refuge in the highest room location in your home. For a tornado, you’ll want to take family and pets to the lowest level of your home. If dealing with a chemical or airborne emergency, the Red Cross advises families to go to an interior room without windows that is above ground level (in the case of a chemical threat, an above-ground location is preferable because some chemicals are heavier than air, and may seep into basements even if the windows are closed).
All pets should have collars and tags with easily visible identification. ID tags should have your pet’s name, your phone number and important medical information. If possible, list a mobile phone number. If you’re not at home when danger strikes, calls may not reach you at a home phone.
For local emergencies, it is important to display an animal rescue sign or sticker so that responders know that there are pets in your home. Your rescue sign should contain the types and names of pets in your house, as well as veterinarian name and contact information. Use your best judgment about placing additional contact information on the sign. While you want to give emergency officials enough information to safely rescue you pets, you must be cautious not to expose information which might be abused by solicitors or passers by.
Finally, make copies of contact, evacuation route and emergency plan information for all members of your family. Store them in Ziploc style waterproof bags so that they will stay dry in case of flooding or water damage.
Where to Go
After you take care of basic preparation, you should agree on two meeting places: one near your home for emergencies such as fires, and another outside of your immediate neighborhood if you must evacuate your home. Similarly, it’s wise to designate two emergency contacts. The first should be in your neighborhood, the second should be out of town. During large scale disasters it can often be easier to reach people who are not in your immediate area. Make sure all of your family members memorize both phone numbers.
If it is necessary to leave your home, you may not be able to bring your pet to rescue facilities with your family. To prevent permanent separation, identify a boarding kennel or shelter in your immediate area that provides emergency care or foster care for pets. Outside of your area, have the name and number of hotels, friends or relatives that will accept your pets. By having these numbers and arrangements in place, you will be able to reunite with your pets even if you are not able to return to your home.
Making an Emergency Pack
It’s easy to prepare an emergency pack for you and your pet. Each pack should contain 3 days worth of supplies. Supplies should be stored in a backpack as close to an exit as possible.
For each member of your family, your pack should include:
Remember to change food, water and medicine every three to six months to maintain freshness and effectiveness.
Disasters, whether small, large, natural or manmade can be terrifying. By having a solid plan in place, emergency contacts and disaster packs ready to go, you can give your entire family the best chance of surviving together.