Those of us who are responsible for the safety of others know that having an emergency plan in place can save precious time in the case of natural or man-made disasters. But, even pet owners need an ounce of prevention when it comes to planning for the unexpected, and the stress that can accompany it.
Following are steps and associated tips to help you in the creation of such a plan:
1. Put together an emergency kit. Here’s a list of what the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends pet owners keep on-hand in case of emergency:
- Food: Keep at least three days of food in an airtight, waterproof container.
- Water: Store at least three days’ worth of water, specifically for your pets, in addition to the water you need for yourself and your family.
- Medicines and medical records: Keep an extra supply of medicines your pet takes on a regular basis in a waterproof container.
- First aid kit: Talk to your veterinarian about what is most appropriate for your pet’s emergency medical needs. Most kits should include cotton bandage rolls, bandage tape and scissors; antibiotic ointment; flea and tick prevention; latex gloves, isopropyl alcohol and saline solution. Include a pet first aid reference book.
- Collar with ID tag, harness or leash: Your pet should wear a collar with its rabies tag and identification at all times. Include a backup leash, collar and ID tag in your pet’s emergency supply kit.
- Important documents: Place copies of your pet’s registration information, adoption papers, vaccination documents, and medical records in a clean plastic bag or waterproof container and also add them to your kit.
- Crate or other pet carrier: If you need to evacuate in an emergency situation, take your pets and animals with you, provided it is practical to do so.
- Sanitation: Include pet litter and litter box if appropriate, newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags, and household chlorine bleach to provide for your pet’s sanitation needs. You can use bleach as a disinfectant (dilute nine parts water to one part bleach), or in an emergency, you can also use it to purify water. Use 8 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water, stir well and let it stand for 30 minutes before use. Do not use scented or color safe bleaches or those with added cleaners.
- A picture of you and your pet together: If you become separated from your pet during an emergency, a picture of the two of you together will help you document ownership and allow others to assist you in identifying your pet. Include detailed information about species, breed, age, sex, color, and distinguishing characteristics.
- Familiar items: Put favorite toys, treats, or bedding in your kit. Familiar items can help reduce stress on your pet.
Consider two kits. In one, put everything your pets will need to stay where you are and make it on your own. The other should be a “bug-out kit,” a lightweight, smaller version you can take with you if you and your pets have to get away quickly.
2. Make a plan for what you will do in an emergency. Plan in advance what you will do in an emergency. Be prepared to assess the situation. Use common sense and whatever you have on hand to take care of yourself and ensure your pet’s safety during an emergency.
- Plan how you will assemble your pets and anticipate where you will go. If you must evacuate, take your pets with you, if practical. If you go to a public shelter, keep in mind your pets may not be allowed inside.
- Develop a buddy system. Plan with neighbors, friends, or relatives to make sure that someone is available to care for or evacuate your pets if you are unable to do so. Talk with your pet care buddy about your evacuation plans and show them where you keep your pet’s emergency supply kit. Also designate specific locations, one in your immediate neighborhood and another farther away, where you will meet in an emergency.
- Talk to your pet’s veterinarian about emergency planning. Discuss the types of things you should include in your pet’s emergency first aid kit. Get the names of vets or veterinary hospitals in other cities where you might need to seek temporary shelter. Also talk with your veterinarian about microchipping. If you and your pet are separated, this permanent implant for your pet and corresponding enrollment in a recovery database can help a veterinarian or shelter identify your animal. If your pet is microchipped, keeping your emergency contact information up to date and listed with a reliable recovery database is essential to you and your pet being reunited.
- Gather contact information for emergency animal treatment. Make a list of contact information and addresses of area animal control agencies including the Humane Society or ASPCA and emergency veterinary hospitals. Keep one copy of these phone numbers with you, and one in your pet’s emergency supply kit. Obtain “Pets Inside” stickers and place them on your doors or windows, including information on the number and types of pets in your home to alert firefighters and rescue workers. Consider putting a phone number on the sticker where you can be reached in an emergency. And, if time permits, remember to write the words “Evacuated with Pets” across the stickers, should you evacuate your home with your pets.
3. Be prepared for sheltering away from home, with or without your pets. Adapt your plan to your area and personal circumstances, and make every effort to follow instructions received from authorities on the scene. Sometimes, a shelter or lodging facility does not allow pets in the case of an evacuation. Have a backup plan in place, such as family or friends who would be willing to shelter you and your pets in an emergency. Other options are kennels, pet sitters, and veterinary hospitals in nearby towns. Having a plan for every possible scenario might never be necessary; but if it is, you and your pets will be happier and safer, having prepared in advance.