I shuddered this morning as I watched the news coverage on the wildfires raging in Colorado and New Mexico. It got me thinking about some of the scares I had growing up in rural San Diego County and how you can never be too prepared for a natural disaster. It’s important to have a plan in place and supplies on hand—for humans and for pets.
Emergencies can come in different forms here in San Diego County, including fires and earthquakes, and they may require anything from a brief absence from your home to permanent evacuation. So in honor of National Pet Preparedness Month, here are some tips to ensure you and your pets are ready in the event of a natural disaster:
Get a Rescue Alert Sticker: These easy-to-use stickers will let rescue workers know that you have pets inside your home. Make sure the stickers are visible—front windows are the perfect place to stick them—and include the following information: 1) the types and number of pets in your household; 2) the name of your veterinarian; and 3) your veterinarian's phone number. If you do evacuate with your pets and time allows, write “evacuated” across the stickers so rescue personnel don’t spend time looking for your pets.
Make an emergency kit: Create a kit with supplies your pet will need and make sure everyone in the family knows where it is. Label the kit clearly and choose a container that is easy to carry. Store the emergency kit and leashes/carriers close to an exit.
Items to keep in your emergency kit include:
- Three to seven days' worth of canned (pop-top) or dry food (be sure to rotate every two months so it doesn’t expire).
- Disposable litter trays (aluminum roasting pans are perfect) and litter.
- Paper towels.
- Liquid dish soap and disinfectant.
- Poo bags.
- Food dishes.
- Extra collar or harness as well as an extra leash.
- Photocopies of medical records and a waterproof container with a two-week supply of medicine. (Remember, food and medications need to be rotated out or they may go bad.)
- Bottled water (at least a week’s worth for each person and pet).
- A traveling bag, crate or sturdy carrier, ideally one for each pet.
- Recent photos of your pets (in case you are separated).
- Pet first-aid kit and guide book.
You should also have an emergency kit for the human members of your family. Some items to include: batteries, duct tape, flashlight, radio, multi-tool, tarp, rope, permanent marker, spray paint, baby wipes, protective clothing and footwear, cash, rescue whistle, important phone numbers, medication and copies of medical and insurance information.
Proper identification: Make sure your pets are microchipped and that they are wearing proper identification at all times. We always suggest that you register an out-of-area emergency contact on your microchip in addition to your own contact information. If your emergency contact is a neighbor or nearby friend, chances are they too will be evacuated and unreachable during an emergency, so it’s best to have someone from out of your immediate area. If you have a carrier for your cat or small dog, be sure to write your pet’s name and your contact information on it.
Make arrangements for boarding your pet: Never leave your pets behind to fend for themselves—if the situation isn’t safe for you, it isn’t safe for them, either. At the first sign of a disaster, bring your pets inside and keep an eye on them so you know where they are in case you have to leave in a hurry. Consider your evacuation route and determine where you will take your pets ahead of time:
- Make a list of boarding kennels and contact them ahead of time.
- Many local animal shelters provide emergency shelter for pets. The Escondido Humane Society helped care for hundreds of displaced pets during the 2007 wildfires, and many others did as well.
- Make a list of hotels and motels outside of your immediate area that accept pets.
- Ask friends and relatives outside your immediate area if they would be willing to take in your pet.
Natural disasters are scary and unpredictable, but with some time and effort you can make sure you and your pets are prepared and safe if the unthinkable happens.