Last month, piercing emergency alarms in my neighborhood woke me up at midnight, warning me of severe thunderstorms and flash floods.
Then, a couple of weeks later, I helped my parents pack up their house as they prepared to evacuate their home in advance of the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs.
The summer’s severe weather across the states of Colorado has left the words “emergency” and “evacuation” emblazoned across my mind. Thinking about it, I had to admit that I wouldn’t really be prepared to take care of myself in an evacuation situation, much less my dog and my cat. However, when precious seconds can matter, it pays to be prepared ahead of time.
Here are some suggestions on being prepared for emergencies, taken from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA):
- Identify shelters and temporary housing ahead of time that accept pets. Find out which motels and hotels in the area you plan to evacuate to allow pets – well in advance of needing them.
- Pack a “pet survival” kit: Include pet food, bottled water, medications, veterinary records, cat litter/pan, food dishes, leashes and a first aid kit.
- Make sure identification tags are always up to date and securely fastened to your pet’s collar. If possible, attach the address and/or phone number of your evacuation site. Make sure you have a current photo of your pet for identification purposes.
- Make sure you have a secure pet carrier, leash or harness in case your pet panics and tries to escape.
- Keep your pet carriers and evacuation kits in an easily accessible location.
Pets should never be left home alone during an emergency. During Hurricane Floyd, a man leaving his flooded home noticed a neighbor’s dogs swimming in circles around the yard. Swimming over to investigate, the man discovered that the dogs had been left chained to a stake in the yard, and were swimming frantically just to stay alive.
FEMA says that if you have absolutely no alternative but to leave your pet at home, certain precautions can be taken to improve your pet’s safety and chance of survival. If you are forced to leave your pet at home alone, FEMA says to confine them to a safe area inside and leave them loose within that area with food and plenty of water. Remove the toilet tank lid, raise the seat and brace the bathroom door open to they can drink. Place a notice outside the home in a visible area, advising which pets are in the house and where they are located. Provide a phone number where you or a contact can be reached, as well as the name and number of your vet.
Do you have an evacuation plan for your pets? If so, what are the steps you'll take to keep your pets safe?