Are you prepared for the unexpected? Disasters happen no matter where you live, so you must have a plan in place for your pets, too. In North Texas, we deal with tornados, wildfires, and flash floods, while other parts of the country face hurricanes, blizzards, earthquakes, and mudslides.
Several years ago, a close friend awoke in the middle of the night when a neighbor pounded the door to alert her to a flash flood. More than 4 feet of water jammed the front door shut, so they dove out the window to escape after stuffing a disgruntled cat in a duffel bag, slinging the Schnauzer under one arm, and urging their big dog to swim after them. They had to break another neighbor's glass front door to get the woman and her cats out of danger.
When disaster strikes, you'll have little time to escape the danger, so it's vital to have an emergency plan in place. These tips apply no matter what Mother Nature throws at you.
9 Ways to Prepare for Disaster
Watch the News. When weather turns iffy, bring all pets into the house so that you won't have to search for them. Make sure all dogs and cats are wearing collars and up-to-date identification. If you have nothing else handy, use a felt-tip marker and write your phone number and name on the pet's tummy or inside the ear.
Identify a Safe Zone. For tornadoes, internal rooms without windows, basements, or storm cellars are recommended. With flooding, that might be a second-story area. Know in advance where to retreat, and make sure there's room for you, your pets, and any supplies you may need.
Teach "Go to Your Room." Use treats, games, or favorite toys to teach pets to quickly go to a safe place like into a crate or designated room. Use a command like Place, Bed, or Go to Your Room. If you must evacuate, you have to find them to take your pets, and cats and dogs often hide during strange weather. Be sure you can find them.
Find a Shelter. Red Cross shelters currently prohibit pets, except for certified service animals. Locate a hotel, friend, or other accommodations in advance that will let you bring your dogs and cats. Hotels that ordinarily prohibit pets may make exceptions during times of emergency evacuations, so always ask. They'll require your pets be under your control, and may also require proof of current vaccination. Include a favorite comfort toy or treat, the pet's food and can opener if needed, and don't forget water. One quart per cat-sized pet per day (more for big dogs) is a good rule of paw.
Create a Pet Kit. You won't have time to pack, so create a pet evacuation kit ahead of time. It should contain a 3-day supply of pet essentials including food, water, cat litter, and a temporary cat litter box. Include vaccination/health certificates and veterinary contact information. When possible, pack a towel or blanket for each pet, along with leashes, harnesses (especially ones with handles), carriers, or X-pens for safe confinement for the hotel, shelter, or on the road.
Pack Potty Cleanup Supplies. Have plenty of plastic bags and newspapers as well as containers and cleaning supplies to help deal with pet waste. Puppy training pads or Depends undergarments work well.
Include a First Aid Kit. Injuries happen during emergencies, so include disposable latex gloves, sterile dressings, antibiotic towelettes and ointment, eyewash, thermometer, and any prescription medications your pets need. Don't forget your cell phone and charger, flashlight, extra batteries, battery powered radio, map of area, whistle/air horn to signal for help, and matches in a waterproof container. Keep a list of emergency numbers with your phone, including a pet emergency clinic number and shelters that may temporarily house animals. Keep your car tank filled with at least half a tank at all times.
Alert Rescuers. Do you have a Pet Alert sticker in your window so emergency personnel know you have pets inside? If you're at work when disaster strikes, you may not be able to get your pets. Get a free sticker from the ASPCA.
Prepare for Success. Have pictures of your pets in case they get lost or are separated from you. Do this with your cellphone camera right now if you're with your pets. Attach the phone number and address of your temporary shelter to the pet's collar tags. You can buy temporary tags or put adhesive tape on the back of your pet's ID tag, adding information with an indelible pen. Write directly on a flat nylon collar or halter to make it easy for a stranger to read the information.
Be ready for Mother Nature's "what if" surprises now and prepare for the worst. I pray you'll never need this information.