September marks National Preparedness Month in the U.S., when Americans are reminded that they should be ready for a man-made or natural disaster at any time. These monumental events can impact homes, entire communities, and businesses; therefore, this month aims to reduce the impact of these events by encouraging preparation. For pet owners, their disaster preparedness planning should include an extra layer to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their pets, should the worst happen. Let's explore what steps should be taken to ensure our beloved pets make it through any major catastrophe.
Create a Pet Emergency Kit
Just as you have for your human family members, every pet-owning household should have a pet emergency kit. It should cover everything needed for basic survival in the event that you need to quickly evacuate with your pets and be easy to grab while still including all of your pet's necessities.
Items to include in a pet emergency kit should include:
- Several days' supply of food in an airtight, waterproof container
- Several days' supply of water in a sealed water bowl
- Extra supply of any medications your pet takes on a regular basis
- First aid kit in case of injury during the disaster
- Sturdy pet carrier, so your pet has a safe haven to make them feel secure
- Harness or leash for dogs since some tend to run out of fear
- Grooming items such as pet shampoo and a brush
- Photo of your pet, in case they get lost, or you become separated
- Favorite toys, treats and/or bedding to reduce their stress
Your neighbors can serve as a great asset in the event of a man-made or natural disaster, especially if you are away from home when it happens. Talk to your neighbors about a "buddy system," with each neighbor assigned to another house for the purpose of quickly grabbing pets if evacuation is necessary. This same neighbor should be aware of the location of your pet emergency kit so that they can take it along with your pets. This is also an ideal scenario for elderly neighbors who might not have the ability to physically take their pets out of their homes with them during an evacuation.
In moments of intense fear or anxiety, some pets will run away from a scene in search of a space that is less stressful. This often occurs when a pet has been involved in a car accident and flees the scene out of fear. To ensure that you are reunited with your beloved companion, have them microchipped and make sure your contact information is updated through the registry you select. Microchipping is often the only way a pet owner is reunited with their pet once they are located and brought to a local veterinarian or shelter. While a collar with an ID tag is also a great idea, and your pet should be wearing one, a microchip is a great backup in case their collar is lost during an emergency.
Evacuate Pets Early
If local authorities are predicting dangerous weather with the threat of evacuation in your area, make arrangements for your pets with a family member or friend who is outside your immediate area but within driving distance. Give yourself enough time to reach your family member or friend with your pets and return safely before the weather event hits. Leaving your pets with a trusted person will allow you to focus on securing your home and evacuating if the need arises without worrying about your pets or taking the extra time required to evacuate them as well. This also removes your pets from the stressful environment that often comes with significant storms. This arrangement with your family member or friend should be made well in advance of any disaster and cemented as part of your disaster preparedness process.
‘Pets Inside’ Stickers
Prepare your home by securing "Pets Inside" stickers and placing them on your exterior doors and windows. These stickers have space to identify how many animals are inside, as well as the types of pets, names, and ages. This will alert first responders to check your home for pets if you weren't able to evacuate with them. If you are able to successfully leave with them, be sure to write "Evacuated With Pets" across the stickers before you leave so that emergency workers don't waste valuable time searching your home. The ASPCA offers a Pet Safety Pack for this very purpose.
Know How to Locate Your Pet Post-Disaster
In the event that you are separated from your pets during a disaster, be sure to have contact information stored as part of your emergency preparedness plan. Displaced pets are often brought to shelters, so include the phone numbers of all your local shelters. FEMA also supports local efforts to search for missing pets after a disaster. FEMA provides additional insight about preparing for disasters if you’re a pet owner.
Contact us if you would like to learn more about pet emergency preparedness or to confirm you have covered all the necessary steps to ensure the safety of your cherished pets.