Depending on your location, you’ve likely been advised since childhood on how to plan for your own safety in the event of an emergency situation. Fire? Stop, drop, and roll. Hurricane or tornado? Gather up necessary supplies (e.g. food, water, flashlight, medical kit, etc.), board up the windows, and plan an evacuation route. Heat illness? Get to a cooler temperature and drink water. Lightning storm? Don’t stand under a tall tree or metal structure, don’t stand in water, and stay inside. But you may not be aware of how to plan for your companion animals when you are panicking in an emergency situation.
It is estimated that for every 1,000 people affected by disaster, 1,500 companion animals will also be affected. (Read this post to learn more about animals and disasters) Trust us, you’ll want to know what to do when panic hits. We want you and your companion animal to be ready and safe for any disaster. So let’s start planning and preparing immediately and yes, we mean immediately as in right now!
1. Pet Identification
You’ll want to make sure your animal’s identification is up-to-date and in your name. A pet ID can be in the form of a collar tag and/or microchip. Having your animal microchipped (as well as tagged) is recommended, since it will increase the chances of your animal being reunited with you in the event she/he gets lost (tags can get lost). You can have this done by visiting your animal’s veterinarian. Also, be sure to include your cell phone number on the tag because it’ll important for someone to contact you directly in case you evacuated or the power goes out in your home.
2. Make an Animal Disaster Kit
Your animal’s disaster kit will consist of your companion animal’s food (enough for at least a week and don’t forget a can-opener!), plenty of water, your animal’s medical records (make sure your dog/cat is vaccinated for rabies) and any medications she/he may need in a waterproof container, a carrier large enough for your animal to be comfortable with comfy blankets and a reliable leash (if your animal is a dog), toys for keeping your animal distracted, garbage bags and paper towels for cleaning up after your animal, a small litter box (if your animal is a cat), and pictures of you and your companion animal in case she/he goes missing.
If your companion animal has high anxiety, you may want to consider getting a homeopathic natural pet-stress remedy. Natural stress-relief formulas can also help reducing lightning storm anxiety. Remaining calm is very important!
3. Know Where You and Your Animal Are Going!
First, you should contact your local emergency shelter to find out if animals are allowed. If evacuation is necessary, you’ll want a list of animal-friendly hotels ready for reference. Or, maybe you have a friend that would be able to help you out in the case of an emergency, but make sure you can bring your companion animal with you. Do NOT leave your animal at home while you flee for safety. Remember that your companion animal is relying on YOU for her/his survival!
If you are not evacuating, pick the safest room (free of toxic chemicals, breakable items such as glass, nooks and crannies where your animal might try to hide) in your home to be a designated emergency room for you and your companion animal, where you will keep supplies, including a radio to listen for updates on disaster news. As Green Monsters, we know you love your companion animal, so please keep her/him safe with you at all times (unless you have carefully arranged for her/him to stay with a friend, family member, sitter, veterinarian, etc.).
4. Plan B, C, D, and E’s
Always have plenty of backup plans. For example, what if you were out of town when a disaster occurred? Friends, family, and/or your pet sitter should be provided clear and detailed instructions of your safety procedure for your companion animal in the event of any emergency.
What if the hotel you were originally planning on escaping to is no longer safe? You can find many different pet-friendly hotels by searching online ahead of time. Never assume that one location will always be reliable.
What if you find out that you can’t bring your animal to where you absolutely need to go? Find out ahead of time if your veterinarian (or at last resort, local animal shelter) will care for your companion until a disaster is over.
What if…you see where we’re going with this. Expect the unexpected. Have your backup plans ready.
5. Be Safe and Keep Your Animal Safe from Illness
In times of high stress, it is easy for animals (including humans) to become ill, since stress can compromise the immune system. Therefore, it is important to keep yourself protected by washing your hands frequently (especially after picking up your animal’s waste or handling her/his food), avoiding facial kisses from your companion animal, and being aware that your animal may display unusual or aggressive behaviors.
Keep your animal protected by avoiding contact or interaction with other animals, avoiding stagnant water and not allowing your animal to lick out of or play in it (especially after the event of flooding), and ensuring your animal is up-to-date on heartworm, flea, and tick preventatives.
6. Evacuate Early
Do not wait for anyone to tell you evacuation is mandatory. If there is any risk, you and your animal better be safe than sorry. Leave as soon as possible. This way, if you encounter any foreseen challenges, you won’t be as panicked. Plus, you’ll want to beat traffic and ensure there will be space for you and your animal depending on the evacuation location you choose.
If your animal gets nervous when traveling, be sure to get her/him used to being driven in a vehicle prior to any emergency.
In the event of a disaster, it is expected for people, as well as animals to panic, especially when evacuation is mandated. But you and your animal won’t because you will have followed the guidelines listed above. Grab your organized supplies from your designated emergency room, make phone calls to let others know your plans, know all your own possible plans, and be ready to do all you can do to keep you and your companion animal safe!
Image source: Lovemeow