From tornadoes and crippling winter storms, to wildfires, toxic spills and terrorist attacks, both natural and man-made disasters seem to be occurring on an increasingly regular basis. If you have a dog or cat, you need to plan for his safety and comfort in the event an emergency forces you from your home for any length of time. Proper preparation reduces panic and stress and will help things go as smoothly as possible, if you have to evacuate.
This four-point checklist from animalwellnessmagazine.com can help ensure that you – and your beloved companion – will be as prepared as possible for a potential disaster.
1. DECIDE WHERE YOU WOULD GO IF YOU HAD TO EVACUATE.
Ask a friend or relative if they’d be willing to have you and your animals stay with them if need be or check to see if there are any animal-friendly hotels in the area. Be sure to pick a destination (or two) at some distance; keep in mind that local acquaintances and accommodations may also be affected by a disaster such as a hurricane or earthquake.
2. MAKE ARRANGEMENTS FOR YOUR ANIMAL’S RESCUE IN CASE YOU’RE NOT HOME WHEN AN EMERGENCY STRIKES.
Apply stickers to your front and back doors to alert first responders to animals in the house and/or ask a neighbor if they’ll help. “In an emergency, animals need an advocate to speak for them,” says Jen Leary, firefighter and founder of the all-volunteer Red Paw Emergency Relief Team. “If the homeowner is at work when a disaster hits, a neighbor can tell first responders how many animals are in the house and where they are likely to be found, as well as take charge of them so no one gets lost or goes to Animal Control.”
3. ASSEMBLE AN EMERGENCY KIT FOR YOUR ANIMAL AND KEEP IT IN AN EASILY ACCESSIBLE PLACE.
Paul Purcell, a terrorism and natural disaster preparedness trainer for first responders, and author of Disaster Prep 101, offers these tips:
• Put together a go-bag with small cans of food, bottled water, any meds or supplements, health records, extra ID, a favorite toy, a photo of yourself with your animal, and a list of emergency contact numbers. Stock enough supplies for at least three days. Stressed dogs and cats eat less, so small cans mean less wasted food and will be easier to carry. Don’t forget a spoon and manual can opener.
• Wear an old t-shirt until it’s beyond ready for the wash. Put the dirty shirt in a Ziploc bag with the emergency kit. If your dog or cat has to be boarded, your scent on the shirt will help comfort him.
• Create or buy a first aid kit. Add Rescue Remedy or a similar calming agent to help Sparky de-stress.
• Find an easily accessible place near an entrance to keep your emergency and first aid kits, and store other relevant accessories alongside it, such an extra collar and leash, a crate or carrier, bedding, cat litter and a litter box.
4. DO SOME EMERGENCY PRACTICE RUNS.
This may seem like overkill, but it’s a good way to discover if you’ve overlooked anything. “Where will everyone go to get out of the house? Set off the smoke detector or the alarm, and take the dog or cat to the exit you’ve chosen,” Jen says. “Break out the best of the best treats, and reward him.” Practice the drill at different times of the day and night, sometimes even in the dark, until it becomes a learned behavior for your animal.
Despite what we may think, nobody lives in an area that’s totally immune from emergencies. Even an overturned tanker truck or out-of-control grass fire can result in evacuation. Thoughtful preparation can spell the difference between a panicked run for safety, and a calm and orderly exit.