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Emergency Planning For Your Pet

Emergency workers evacuating dog in flood

All regions in the US have their benefits, but they also come with unique challenges. For example, if you live in California, you need to be earthquake and wildfire prepared. In the Midwest, you need to watch for tornadoes. In southern states like Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, you have to be ready for hurricanes or even flash floods.

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No matter what our region's weather may throw at us, it is in our control to prepare ourselves, our houses, and our pets. Prepping in advance can relieve some of the stress in an emergency or unexpected event, and any emergency plan must include our furry family members! 

Prepare Your Pets for emergency Disasters

Ensuring the safety of your beloved pets during emergencies is of utmost importance; they are a part of your family, and you can't easily tell them what to do. Life can throw unexpected curveballs like floods, fires, and hurricanes without a warning, and your pet won't know that hiding under the bed might not be the best course of action. 

That's why it's your responsibility to create an emergency plan, taking into account your pet's needs and making sure they will be safe and sound.

1.  What should be in your emergency kit?

Every family should have a well stocked emergency kit on hand. Many of the things we include in our family emergency kits, such as water, non perishable foods, first aid kits and comfort items, are also needed when emergency planning for your pets, but pets also require a few extra things. 

Pet First-aid Kit: 

Accidents can happen at any time, so be prepared with a pet-specific first aid kit that includes bandages, gauze, antiseptic solution, and topical medications. 

Check yearly to make sure the kit is up to date, and nothing is expired. Keep this in an accessible location as you may have to guide someone to your pet's emergency kit if you are not with them.

Necessary Pet Accessories: 

Each pet needs to have a carrier or crate to easily transport and contain them in the event of an emergency situation. You may even want to train them to go to their crates when scared, such as during fireworks or thunder, so you'll know where they are if you get separated. 

Have a leash for each pet, litter and a litter box for cats, as well as supplies to clean up any accidents. Many pets are know to get anxious in vehicles, and you cannot risk losing track of your precious pets in an already stressful time.

Pet Food and Water: 

Experts recommend having a 3 day non-perishable supply of food and water for each member of the family, and that should include your furry family members too. Be sure to have 1 gallon of water per person and animal, treats, and food enough to last. Have food and water dishes as well as wipes to clean up any spills. Plan to replace or check the emergency food and water supply yearly.

Pet Toys & Comfort Items: 

Emergencies can be unsettling for humans and animals alike. Familiar objects can provide a sense of security and help relieve stress. Pack a cozy blanket, a favorite toy, or even a piece of clothing that smells like you. Having a comfort kit always at the ready is a wise idea, and can help your pet feel less scared of everyday loud noises or thunderstorms.

Medication and Pet Supplements: 

If your pet takes any regular medications, be sure to keep a few weeks' supply on hand. You may also want to have some relevant remedies to help your pet stay calm and to prevent their immune system from being weakened by stress. Going through an emergency may trigger additional health problems or worsen existing ones, so have what you need to keep your pets healthy.

2.  How do you create a pet-specific emergency plan?

As the saying goes, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Our four-legged friends need us to be prepared to keep them safe, secure, and cared for in an urgent situation. There are several important elements to consider when creating a pet-specific emergency plan:

Where will your pet be able to evacuate to?

The best option would be friends or family within driving distance that can host you during an emergency, provided they are out of harm's way. Not all emergency shelters are pet-friendly, so you should think ahead for where your pet can go if you need to evacuate.

Research ahead of time to see if there is a pet-friendly shelter in your area, or look for pet-friendly hotels that are within driving distance but out of the way of a storm or possible wildfire. If you cannot find pet-friendly accommodations, there are organizations such as RedRover Responders to assist you in finding shelter for your pet when displaced by natural disasters.

Who can you trust to help your pet?

Joining a local online pet community can be a valuable source of information, advice, and possibly support. 

Arrange with trusted neighbors, friends, or family members to care for or evacuate your pet in case you are not home during an emergency. Meet with them to show them where your pet's emergency kit is located, and be sure they are someone your pet is familiar with and will trust and obey.

Is your pet's identification up to date? 

Even with the best plans, scared pets can run or hide, making evacuating with them extremely difficult. It is always very important to keep up to date on the information necessary to find your pet or have someone return your pet to you. 

Make sure you:

  • Have a good quality photo of your pet. Update your photos of your pet on a regular basis. This is something pet owners may not think of, but it is incredibly useful for helping others know what your pet looks like if they are found. This is also a good tip for if your pet runs away or gets lost, not just in an emergency.

  • Update your pet's tags with complete and correct contact information. If you've changed your address or phone number recently, make sure it has been changed on their tag as well. Plus, check your pet's collar & tag for wear and tear, and buy them a new one if you think it may break soon. You don't want anyone to think they're a stray, and it's always better safe than sorry!

  • Get your pet microchipped if possible - while not necessary, this is one of the most effective ways for others to identify your pet as part of your family if they go missing. If their collar rips or falls off, a microchip can be scanned easily and you'll be contacted to claim your pet right away.

3. How do you pet-proof your home for emergencies?

Preventing personal emergencies, including home/stove fires, basement flooding, or simply your curious pup getting into trouble, is just as important as minimizing risks for natural disasters. Here are a few ways to help keep your furry friend safe in case of an emergency at home:

Home Alone: If an emergency happens when you are not home, be sure that emergency personnel knows you have pets that need rescuing by posting Pet Rescue Window and Door Stickers. To be extra safe, notify neighbors you trust (especially those you know will be at home, such as retirees) what hours your pet will be without supervision so they can contact you if anything seems amiss.

Fire Safety: To reduce the risk of fire, secure loose wires, never leave a candle, stove, or fire unattended, and install fire and carbon monoxide detectors. Have working fire extinguishers in the kitchen, and test them each year.

Pets can be very curious and love to chew or knock over things, so it is important to minimize potential hazards. 

Outside your home, if you live in an area known for wildfires, keep any plants or flammable objects are away from your home, and consider updating your roof tiles if needed. Be sure to have a fire escape plan that includes your pets.

Earthquake Prep: Earthquakes are one of the few natural disasters that give not even a moment of warning. However, it is a fascinating fact that dogs tend to act strangely, with increased anxiety and nervousness, up to 24 hours before an earthquake! If you live in an area prone to earthquakes, you should secure all objects that can easily fall and hurt a human or pet, fix your furniture to the walls or floor, and if possible, have a designated safe area to hunker down with your pets until the shaking stops. You should also have a plan in place to quickly shut off gas, water, and electricity in the event of a major earthquake.

Hurricane Hacks: Before hurricane season begins, get your yard in shape to minimize hazards in extreme wind. Replace old doors that could come loose, install storm shutters or have plywood to cover windows fitted and ready to install if a storm is approaching. Extended tree branches can potentially fall and hurt your pet, so trim those back. For tornados and extreme hurricanes, have a designated safe place or bunker and a plan for how to gather your pets and get to shelter.

4. What do I need to do in an urgent emergency?

When the unexpected strikes, always stay calm, focused and keep your pet's safety in mind. The following are some tips that can help you in urgent emergencies:

Grab Those Essentials:

Remember that emergency kit you prepared? Gather the emergency kits for yourself, family, & pets. Get the leashes and carriers needed. Focus on getting your loved ones to safety according to your emergency plan, and leave any items that are unnecessary and will slow you down.

Keep Calm:

Familiar commands and gentle reassurance will help your pet stay calm during chaos. Your reassuring voice can help keep their stress at bay and remind them that their human best friend is there to protect and comfort them. Rub their tummies or wrap them in their favorite blanket so they know you are going to get through this together.

Time to Evacuate:

If you are told to evacuate due to an impending storm or wildfire, be wise and cooperate.  Do not leave your pets behind unless absolutely necessary: if it is not safe for you, it is not safe for them. 

Waiting too long during evacuation orders can result in not getting your important personal items or pets out in time. Remember to secure your pet in a carrier or keep them leashed at all times. Head to a place that will shelter both you and your pet.

Remember your pet's Needs: 

A sudden change is very hard on animals. Even with your presence, your pet may be withdrawn, or show uncharacteristic aggression or anxiety. Be patient and loving, and do your best to keep them away from crowds and chaos. In case of potential injuries, always know where the emergency veterinary clinics or animal hospitals are in your area that are open 24 hours. They are equipped to handle pet emergencies and can also provide immediate medical attention if the need arises.

Keep Calm and Plan On

Your pet relies on you for safety, love and protection, even more so in the face of a true emergency. 

Emergency planning for your pet doesn't have to be too complicated. You can successfully keep your furry friend safe by prepping an emergency kit, creating a pet-specific exit plan, pet-proofing your home, and researching community support and resources. 

Print out the attached infographic and keep it on your fridge as a reminder of what to do in case of an emergency.

Stay safe, keep calm, and remember that the most important thing in an emergency is to protect your furry companion and make sure they feel safe and loved when the unexpected occurs.

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