After the wildfires that ravaged central and Eastern Washington in August, September, and October of this year, WA State pet owners reassessed how they could be prepared for disasters – both for themselves and for their pets.
Disaster preparedness involves every member of the family. Hurricane Sandy is currently endangering residents along the east coast, human and nonhuman alike. Residents along the east coast have been evacuated, but according to the American Humane Society, their pets still need help.
In the event of an emergency (earthquake, storm, long-term power outage, house fire, sudden illness) it is important to keep emergency/disaster preparedness kits for both yourself and for your pets.
The top items for your pet’s kit should include: carrier (for cats, small dogs, or other small pets) a leash or harness for dogs and cats who will tolerate them, 3-7 days’ worth of food and water, your pet’s medications, a blanket, towel, or soft comfort item, name tags/identification, flashlight, bowls for food and water, first aid items (bandages, alcohol wipes, q-tips, gauze, etc.), and a spare set of batteries for the flashlight.
Store your kit in an area that is easily accessible during a quick evacuation. Have a plan that includes all of your family members, human and nonhuman. Practice and be familiar with this plan – in the event of an emergency, there are already too many uncontrolled variables. If you are fortunate to not have to use your kit, make sure to check the expiration date of items such as food and batteries on a quarterly basis.
The ASPCA details the following plan for disaster preparedness:
Step 1 – Get a rescue alert sticker which tells people that pets are inside your home. Ensure that it is visible and has the types and number of pets in your home and your veterinarian’s name and phone number. You can order a sticker for free here. If you do have to evacuate, write “evacuated” across your stickers to ensure that rescuers do not search for them.
Step 2 – Arrange a safe haven. Do not leave your pets behind during an emergency: They can become trapped, injured, or killed. You should always plan on evacuation with your pets and prioritize your pet’s safety. Not all Red Cross disaster shelters accept pets, so contact your veterinarian for a list of preferred boarding kennels. Ask your local animal shelter if they provide emergency shelter or foster care for pets. Ask friends, relatives, and even acquaintances outside of your immediate area if they could temporarily take in your pet during a disaster.
Step 3 – Have emergency supplies and tracking kits. You can visit the ASPCA store to purchase a pet emergency kit.
Step 4 – Choose designated caregivers. Carefully choose people who could be temporary or permanent caregivers for your pets. Provide these trusted individuals with a set of keys to your home.
Step 5 – Evacuation preparation. Follow all evacuation recommendations. Make sure that your emergency kit is always ready and easily accessible. Make sure that your pets are up-to-date on their vaccinations and that your pets have identifying collars and microchips. Write your pet’s name, your name, your contact number, and alternate contact persons on your pet’s carrier. Determine your evacuation route in advance.
Step 6 – Geographic and climatic considerations. If you live in an area that is prone to flooding, fire, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, or other natural disasters, you should prepare appropriately.
Pet owners should also ensure that they have emergency cash for themselves and for their pets in the event that ATM and credit card machines are inoperative due to power outages.
For more information or to purchase a ready-made emergency pack, please visit ASPCA’s disaster preparedness site.
Both the Red Cross and FEMA have Emergency Preparedness for Pets sites.