Preparing for an Emergency

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Here in Nebraska, tornadoes are common in the spring.  This year, we are also struggling through an awful flooding season.  Other areas of the country (and world) have been hard hit recently with these and other emergencies, including hurricanes, earthquakes and forest fires.

Make an Emergency Plan

Does your family have an emergency plan?  Does your plan include your pets?

Plan for what should be done in different scenarios.  For example, in a situation where staying home is best (such as tornadoes), have a plan to get your pets into a safe room with you.  Small pets can usually be carried in their habitat.  Cats and any pets whose habitats are too large to transport (ferrets and parrots, for example) can be transported in kennels.  Have leashes ready for the dogs.  Have treats on hand to ensure everyone’s cooperation!

Have the same securing devices on hand for an emergency in which the family would have to leave the home, such as flooding or a fire.

Do not leave pets alone at home if it is at all possible to find and secure them.  Such sad news stories are run every spring of dogs tethered in their yard or trapped in their house, unable to escape flood waters or other severe weather.

Find a Good Neighbor

Have an agreement with a key-worthy neighbor that you will secure each other’s pets and bring them to a safe place in a situation in which it would be unsafe for an away from home family to return home before evacuating the area.

Stock the Car and the Basement

To ensure leaving the house or going to a safe room goes smoothly, have these essentials packed in the car and safe room before an emergency occurs:

  • Veterinary records
  • Blankets
  • Travel dishes
  • Bottled water
  • Travel cases containing each pet’s food
  • Supply of medications your pets are taking with directions
  • First aid kit
  • Day-to-day pet care instructions in case your pets are separated from you or you are unable to care for them
  • A copy of your emergency plan

ID Your Pets

Have each pet microchipped and wearing a collar with identification tags:

  • Personalized tag with your pet’s first and last name and your home and cell phone numbers
  • Microchip tag with microchip number
  • Rabies tag with your veterinary hospital’s name and number and your pet’s rabies tag number

Check your pet’s tags to make sure all information is up to date.

Housing After the Emergency

Have a plan in place in case you need to make living arrangements after an emergency.  Will human shelters in your area house pets?  Will pet shelters temporarily house displaced pets?  Keep in mind, in the event of widespread disaster, both human and pet shelters may be overwhelmed, and if a friend or family member can help with pet care, that would be ideal.

Have a well thought out, WRITTEN emergency plan that covers common emergencies in your area.

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May you have the best emergency plan ever written, and may you never, ever need to use it.

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This was first published on Banfield’s Sit and Stay blog, July 2011 as Emergency Preparedness and Pets.  It is republished here mostly because disaster preparation is important, but also in celebration of the good memories I will have of working with Banfield (like fun writing projects we did together).  It is also republished here in celebration of my one week anniversary of quitting my job at Banfield Pet Hospital.  I am so freaking happy to be done.  Very good things are coming soon.  I am so happy I have the Life With Dogs community with whom to continue the adventure…You are the best.

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3 thoughts on “Preparing for an Emergency”

  1. I have a bag always packed for my dog just in case, with food, milk bones, her meds (she is allergic to bees) leash and her toys and copies of her vaccines. Not only for weather emergencies but also in case something happens to me, (i.e have to be in hospital etc) and my sister has to pick her up to care for her everything she needs is all in one place and I don’t have to worry about her not having something especially her allergy meds. It’s a smart idea and it gives me a piece of mind that I have it. Everyone should put something together just in case you never know what is going to happen.

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  2. Some ideas gleaned from other disaster-prep sources: first and possibly most important DO take a pet first aid class and get certified – injuries happen in natural disasters and veterinarians likely to be overwhelmed with cases and not immediately available. Check out the dehydrated foods that can be reconstituted with cold water in case hot water is unavailable – it isn’t, always. Read labels and stock up at least a full week to ten days’ worth of dog food that is light, prepackaged and easy to carry. There is so much out there now available – do trial runs first to make sure your dog actually will eat reconstituted food, not all will esp. if sick or injured. Ask your veterinarian whether water purification procedures used for humans will not harm your dog; sometimes good water isn’t available and carrying a week’s worth of water would be a nearly insurmountable challenge. Remember to pack dog sweaters and waterproof coats in case you are something shy of shelter. In flood areas always ALWAYS have stashed at least two fully approved working and easy-to-put-on dog life jackets (goes without saying you need a couple too, even water wings). For big and small dogs (this is one always advised for horse people which I also am) you can use a non-toxic marking pen to write your phone number on the dog’s back (for dark dogs use bright day-glo orange, pink or yellow). On the collar use a strip of reflecting tape – good idea anyway, all the time, so your dog can be detected in low-light situations. People always forget photos in their emergency kits and if you have one fine but even if you have uploaded photos to your e-mail ready to “blast” out if your dog is lost, the immediacy of that once you can get to a computer to do this, is invaluable.

    None of us like to think of these things. If you think pet disaster planning is bad try doing it for six horses one of whom weighs 1900 lbs!

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