Preparing For Disaster
By Debra J. White
The weather forecast says a big one is on the way. Punishing winds will slap the coast of Florida. Floods will swallow everything in its path. Get out while there’s still time. What about your pets?
Hurricanes are part of Florida living. Every summer residents hope storms will be mild or washed out by the time they reach landfall. Underneath the optimism, though, residents fear another monster like Andrew that crushed South Florida in 1992 will return. Thousands of dogs and cats stunned by the devastation ran through the streets searching for their owners.
Prepare an evacuation plan for your pets. Dogs and cats stranded in apartments or houses cannot survive hurricanes. They’re scared and alone in homes battered by raging winds and water.
For your pet’s safety, take a few steps so you’re ready, just in case authorities give the evacuation orders. Include the following in your emergency kit:
•Food for two weeks
•Plastic food and water bowls
•Crate with ID
•Dog’s license and pet’s vaccination history
•Bedding such as blankets or towels
•Medication, if applicable, and medical records
•Paper towels, newspaper or plastic bags to pick up waste
•First aid kit
•Flashlight, radio and batteries
•Tie-out for your dog
•Current photo of your pet
•Something familiar for comfort, such as a favorite toy or blanket
ID tags should always be current in the event of a separation. Emergency workers can only reunite lost pets with owners if the ID is up to date. If they survive, lost pets without ID will be placed for adoption, perhaps even out of state.
Some communities set aside evacuation centers for pet owners at schools, football fields or shopping malls. Your dog or cat may have to be crated. Alternately, rules may require that dogs be attached to tie-outs. Bring proof of vaccinations, especially rabies.
Always be prepared. Listen to weather forecasts. Pay attention to the news and observe official announcements. Make sure your car has plenty of gas and is in good working order if a major storm heads your way. If you don’t have a car, ask friends or neighbors for transportation.
Call motels to see which ones take pets. During emergencies, “No Pets” policies are often relaxed. Arrange with friends or family who live on higher ground for temporary lodging.
If you own horses or livestock, prepare for them too. Livestock are usually not evacuated. Turn off power to electric fences. Secure all gates and fences so cows remain in the pasture. Horses may not survive in the barns on their own. Investigate arrangements for their evacuation. Nearby stables out of the storm’s path often provide shelter to needy horses during emergencies.
If the worst-case scenario forces you to evacuate without your pets, a prominent notice on the front door should indicate the number of pets inside along with your cell phone number or where you sought shelter. Put down extra pet food and water. Secure all windows and doors. Shut off the lights and gas.
Evacuations during storms or wildfires can be chaotic, tense and scary. Try to remain calm. Your dog or cat will sense your anxiety.
Lives are lost during hurricanes due to poor planning. Take the necessary precautions and be ready if Mother Nature’s fury strikes. Help your neighbors, avoid unnecessary risks, and follow official instructions. Your pets’ lives depend on you.
For more information on emergency preparedness with animals, contact your local animal shelter, the Red Cross or the Humane Society of the United States.