How can I prepare myself and my pets for an emergency disaster?

By nakedbarra | April 18, 2013

Q: I just become a new pet owner and now I have the life of another family member. I’m getting a little concerned about what to do for him if there is an emergency. How do I start preparing and what do I need to keep him safe?

A: No part of the country is immune from the effects of Mother Nature. Hurricanes and other natural disasters like bush fires and earthquakes happen across our beautiful world and many of us are unprepared for widespread natural disasters.

Taking training in pet first aid and having a emergency pet first-aid kits and “pet passports” will help your own and other lost pets in an emergency

You don’t have to become a survivalist, but what would you need if there is an evacuation and I give you three minutes? How much can you carry? What if I give you 10 minutes or two days?

We can’t stresses the value of preparation, which includes having a plan A, B, C, D and E. The devastating tornado that wiped out communities in and around Joplin, Mo., offers another shocking reality check. When disaster strikes, you must be your own first responder. The right tools and the right plan can make a big difference. Here are 10 tips to help kick-start your emergency plans.

1. Create an emergency contact list. Start with friends or family members who live nearby and can reach you or your pets quickly. Make sure they have keys, necessary codes or other information to access your home, grab the pets and evacuate. “For every Plan A, have a Plan E, as most Plan A’s don’t happen, so Plan C has to be just as good.”

2. Make an emergency kit. Fill a backpack with at least two weeks’ worth of food for your pets and plan for at least a gallon of water per day, per pet. If your animal eats wet food, then it will consume less water.

3. Try camping, or at least learn a few skills. Hotels frequently change their policies during emergencies, so I have a camping kit to set up wherever I want, If you lack that wilderness gene, stop by an outdoor shop for primers on purifying water or other survival skills. While you are there, stock up on a few tools, plates and a utility knife.

4. Practice makes perfect. Take a weekend and rehearse your emergency evacuation plan. It should include finding alternate exit routes for your neighborhood, just in case a downed tree or other issue creates an obstacle.

5. Take a pet and human first aid certification course. For the best experience in planning for a disaster, we always suggest learning from the experts. 

6. Invest in sturdy pet carriers. Whether your pet goes to a relative or an emergency shelter, it needs a safe place to stay, says Toni McNulty, team lead for animals in disaster with (@Redcrossdog on Twitter), a nonprofit organization that uses social media to fill the communications gap between those affected by disaster and those responding to disaster. Try a collapsible crate that is large enough to hold food and water bowls, and allows your pet to stand and turn around. “Get it ahead of time and let your pet get used to it. Mark with contact information. If your pet winds up in an emergency shelter, that contact information is necessary.” It also helps to include a few favorite toys or bedding.

7. Stock the basics in an emergency bag. Be sure to include a leash (for dogs and cats), a collar with identification information, a harness and a muzzle, even if your pet is the sweetest in the land. If an animal rescue person tries to pick up your pet, you don’t want your pet biting, pets pick up stress, just like people in an emergency, and they can behave in a way that they normally don’t.” If you’re pet uses a harness or splint, consider purchasing a second one for the emergency bag. 

8. Carry copies of documentation. Grab a waterproof container and use it to hold copies of your pet’s vital information, the container should hold pictures of your pet, as well as a list of medications, allergies, vaccination records, pet insurance cards, a rabies certificate, and disaster contacts — inside and outside of the disaster area. When Johnnie Richey was killed in the May 22 tornado in Missouri, his 9-year-old cocker spaniel was eventually reunited with the owner’s sister, Kerri Simms. “Even though her brother is gone, she could retrieve his pet and have a little bit of her brother through that pet, that’s why it’s so important that you have pictures and out-of-area contacts.

9. Carry photos that show you with your pet. To alleviate any confusion when it’s time to recover your pet from an emergency facility, be sure to carry photos that show you and your pet together. Attach those photos as proof of ownership on your pet’s crate.

10. Don’t wait for the second or third warning. If you live in an area that’s known for weather emergencies, act as soon as you hear a warning, When pets sense urgency, they hide and you lose valuable time trying to find them, she says. Keep leashes, collars and crates ready at a moment’s notice, particularly if you live in a mobile home or vulnerable structure.

It also helps to bookmark a few key websites and Twitter addresses for your local emergency services and humane and rescue societies.

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