Did you ever watch a disaster event on TV and wonder what you would do if it happened to you and your family – including your pets? Really, what would you do with your pets if an emergency or disaster happened……? RIGHT NOW!
This past fall, after a very busy disaster response season, one national disaster group responded to eight disasters nationally and even sent medical supplies/support for the Japan Earthquake relief efforts. I personally went out to help on five deployments myself. I finished the disaster training and response season in Mid-October and thought “Wow, busy season!”, and then it happened – a freak snow storm here where I live. Leaves were still on the trees and…. next thing you know, my own home town is without power, no phone service, no internet, no cell phone and it is 20 degrees with 14’’ of snow.
I have to admit to walking the walk and talking the talk, my family was ready. We fired up our generator, cooked on the gas grill and fired up the woodstove. The family cuddled up together on the couch, including the cats and dog and even our two lizards. It was quite tolerable. I was actually mobilized to help my town at the warming station one night and overheard a person say “I’m just here to get a hot meal and warm up. I can’t stay here; I don’t want to leave my pets in the cold house that long without me.”
Those words resonate in my head. So much has been done since Hurricane Katrina, but people need to know that part of the responsibility of recovery lies directly with them, planning for the disaster before it strikes.
Answer these questions: Are you at home or at work? What time of day is it? What is the weather like? Are you being instructed to shelter in place or do you need to evacuate immediately? Do you have a plan? How about a disaster response kit or “Go Kit” – one packed with supplies for you and one packed for your pets. Some people are laid back and think it can never happen to them or that they are not in a disaster prone area to have to worry about something like that.
I live in the Northeast and have responded to numerous disaster situations. I could share hundreds of stories that will bring tears to your eyes from 9/11; pets whose owners weren’t coming home, to individual house fires even with the family home and still not able to get their beloved pets out in time while they watch the house go up in flames. Panic stricken people stuck behind official road blocks that can’t cross the line to go and retrieve their pets due to floods or wildfires. People think it is ok to evacuate without their pets because they think and have been told it will only be a short duration and it turns out to be way longer than expected. Now time is against them and the lives of their pets are at risk.
Having a basic crisis plan in place can make all the difference during a disaster. It all comes down to two simple steps:
1. Know where you are going to go in an emergency.
2. Know how you will transport your pets.
Once you have identified those pieces of information, you can evolve to the next steps:
Practice an evacuation, like a fire drill, but include evacuating with all of your pets.
Put together a Disaster Go Kit that includes food and water supply for a minimum of 7 days (Zip Lock or plastic storage containers’ work great for this).
Your pets’ medication.
A way to contain your pet
Pet identification and copies of medical records for each pet; especially rabies vaccines if applicable to that species of pet.
A picture of you and your pet together to prove ownership (works great on your phones that you can take a picture with).
If your pet has special needs. i.e. Diabetic or seizures or geriatric or is on a prescription food, pack appropriately for that medical issue so you aren’t caught off guard. It’s a good idea to have 10-14 days’ worth of these supplies on hand.
I leave you with this bit of advice… plan now while there are plenty of ways to educate yourself on how to do this. In the meantime, if you do a few simple things when you are done reading this you will be ahead of the game.
- Identify and have a safe way to transport your animals
- Know where you are going to take your animals if you were evacuated right now.
- Get your pet “Go Kits” ready
My next blog will explain how to make a “Go Kit” for your pets, and put together and practice your plan.
Jo Ellen Cimmino LVT
Jo Ellen is a 1986 Graduate from SUNY Delhi with a degree in Applied Animal Science, Past President of the NYS Assoc of Veterinary Technicians. She has over 20 years’ experience as a Licensed Veterinary Technician, small animal medicine, and in the past 5 years has also worked part time on call for New England Equine Practice as an anesthesia tech. Jo Ellen teaches Veterinary Radiology for Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry NY for Pre Vet and Veterinary Technology students. She is also a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Instructor. Jo Ellen’s Disaster experience includes: 9/11 treating search and rescue dogs at ground zero, Hurricanes Ivan, Gustov, Katrina and Irene, San Diego Wildfires, Catskill NY and North Dakota Floods, Georgia and Arkansas Tornadoes plus logistical support for the Haiti, and Japan Earthquake efforts. Married 20 yrs with a 16 yr old daughter, Jo Ellen lives in CT on 5 acres with 2 horses, 1 dog, 2 cats, 2 lizards and 1 guinea pig.