The recent devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey is a reminder that Mother Nature is unpredictable and unfortunately unstoppable. Natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and wild fires are an inevitable part of life. Though we cannot prevent them, we are not completely helpless. We can improve our chances for a safe outcome by becoming better prepared for these natural disasters.
Preparing for an emergency begins by making a disaster kit for you and your family. Since over 60% of U.S. households have at least one pet and most of us consider our pets part of the family, 60% of us will need to make an emergency kit for our pets as well. However, preparing your pets for a disaster begins even before you pack your first supply in your disaster kit. Your pet should already have a microchip implanted, and wear a collar with identification tags. Taking these precautions can avoid the heartache of a lost pet during these times of chaos. Even with the best precautions your pet can get lost in the turmoil. Having a microchip and ID tag will help reunite you with your lost pet.
As previously mentioned, pets should have their own disaster kit. These kits need to contain all the supplies your pet will need to survive for several days. Pre-made pet disaster kits can be purchased online or you can make your own to address your pet’s individual needs. The first component is a container to store all the supplies. A duffel bag or backpack is ideal because they are easy to carry in case you need to evacuate. You should choose a brightly colored one because they will be easy to identify and find, even in the darkness of a power outage. Likewise, you should store your disaster kits in a location where they are easily accessible. Storing your emergency kit where you cannot find it or easily get to it negates its usefulness.
You will want to include enough food in your kit to last for several days. Canned foods last longer than dry foods so these are a good choice for our pack. However, they are heavy and the amount of cans needed to sustain a large dog for several days is probably too bulky and impractical to pack in a disaster kit. Dry food can be packed instead but be sure to pack it in heavy-duty waterproof freezer bags. Be sure you include bowls as well as a can opener. You should have enough water for your family and pet, and consider including a water-purifying filter or iodine tablets.
Also include any medications that your pet is currently taking, such as arthritis, thyroid and blood pressure medications. You may not be able to go to your veterinarian during an emergency so have extra supplies available. Likewise, include copies of your pet’s medical records, vaccine history and phone numbers for local emergency clinics. Having this medical information readily available can be lifesaving since access to your pet’s original records at the veterinarian may not be possible. Include a pet first aid booklet and first aid supplies in case your pet gets injured and you cannot access a veterinarian. First aid kits should include antibacterial ointments, bandaging material, wound dressing, and antiseptic wound cleaners. Also pack a thermal blanket to keep your pet warm if it goes into shock. Finally, you can improve your first aid skills by enrolling in a basic pet first aid class often offered at your local animal shelter.
Though it may seem superfluous, you should also include your pet’s favorite treats in the kit. Many frightened animals will hide during a disaster and will not want to come out of their hiding place. Along with gentle coaxing, having your pet’s favorite treats on hand may be what you need to entice your fearful pet out of hiding and into safety. Once you secure your pets, use a leash or pet carrier so that you can safely transport your pet without risking that they will run away and get lost.
Having taken the proper measures to prepare for an emergency, you have given yourself and your family the best chance for a safe outcome. So what do you do during a disaster? First and foremost, try to remain calm. Then put your plan of action into motion. Get your disaster kits, locate your animals, secure them using either a leash for dogs or a carrier or pillowcase for cats, and then get yourself, your family, and your pets to a safe location. If you have a pet emergency call your veterinarian or the local veterinary emergency clinic. If your pets manage to get lost or you need a place for your pets, contact your local animal shelters for information.
While the area you live in may not be prone to Hurricanes or earthquakes disasters come in all forms. Natural disasters cannot be prevented, but being organized and preparing for them can make a lifesaving difference.