Natural disasters – like floods, earthquakes, and hurricanes – are terrifying, especially if you’re unprepared for them. And although you don’t ever want to leave your home, scary storm warnings and city evacuations are hard to ignore. So if a natural disaster or emergency occurs, are you prepared? Do you have an emergency plan or kit in place to keep your whole family – including your pet – safe and sound?
Here are 8 ways to keep your pet safe during an emergency:
1. Never leave your pet behind.
Unless, of course, the house is on fire or caving in and you have to first protect yourself or a human member of your family. But don’t assume your pet will be okay for a few days without you. If she’s left behind, she can get lost, become malnourished, or get hurt from the disaster. Although emergencies are not always foreseen – especially evacuations due to a terrorist attack or sudden fire – having a pre-planned course of action can help reduce the risk of your pet being left alone to fend for herself.
2. Make prior arrangements.
Because most Americans work, pets are often home alone. But if disaster strikes and you’re not home (and there is no pet sitter or dog walker), make sure someone knows that you have a pet and that he needs to get to safety. Give a neighbor or friend – specifically one who is comfortable and familiar with your pet – a spare key. And put a rescue alert sticker on your front door to alert police or firefighters that there is a pet inside the home.
3. Evacuate safely and evacuate early.
If your city is on alert for a winter storm or hurricane, don’t be the last person to leave town. Animals are resilient, yes, but they are harder to harbor than humans because not every restaurant, hospital, or hotel accepts them. What’s more, loading them into a carrier or crate will be especially difficult if they’re stressed or afraid from all the commotion. Evacuating safely and early helps keep the situation calm, cool, and collected and ensures every person and every pet is accounted for.
4. Prepare an emergency kit.
Pack an emergency kit for your pet as you would for yourself – chock-full of essentials like her leash, collar, first aid, food, water, medications, medical records, and any important documents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also suggests packing familiar items (if there’s room, of course) like beds, blankets, and toys to help keep your pet calm during travel. And to keep the nasty smells to a minimum, don’t forget a litter box and litter for cats and plastic poop bags for dogs.
5. Choose a safe haven.
If your home, city, or state is not safe for you, it isn’t safe for your pets. Know a few safe places to go if disaster strikes and choose proper caretakers to care for your pet if you have to leave him somewhere for a little while. Make sure you identify local shelters, veterinarians, kennels, or hotels that will accept your pet if you have to spend a few nights away from home. And if you do stay home, bring your pet with you to whatever room is safest – whether it’s the attic (flooding) or the basement (tornado). Close doors and block off unsafe areas so your pet doesn’t roam and get trapped. It’s also smart to have a flashlight and plenty of water with you in case the power goes out.
6. Make sure your pet has ID.
Whether he’s microchipped or has ID and updated tags around his collar, it’s important that he always has proper identification in case you get separated. In addition to his name on his collar, add your name, telephone number, and microchip number to it so someone can easily contact you when he’s found. It’s also smart to bring current photos of him with you in case he gets lost.
7. Beware of disease.
If natural disasters force you away from home, it’s important to always be aware of your new surroundings and the diseases that may live there. Keep an eye on your pet – especially in new territory – and keep her away from rabid wildlife, mosquitoes, or stagnant water.
8. Involve the whole family.
When things aren’t properly planned with and communicated to everyone, chaos ensues. To prevent that from happening, make sure everyone in the family knows what to do with your pet if there is an emergency. By implementing a buddy system, every person and animal in your home will be safe and accounted for at all times. From grandma to grandchild, keep everyone in your home in the loop on the emergency plan, emergency kit, and what to do, who to call, and where to go to keep your pet safe.
Although natural disasters are scary (no matter how much warning you receive), they can be manageable if you have a proper plan and open line of communication in place. By making prior arrangements, preparing an emergency kit, and choosing safe havens in and around your community, you will be able to maintain control and ensure safety throughout the whole ordeal.
Image: Matthew Wiebe