The threat of natural disaster has never been greater than it is right now. No matter where you live, no one is safe from the potentially devastating impact of nature’s wrath. Now more than ever, you need to be prepared ahead of the time for the possibility of a sudden emergency.
Just as you need to be prepared to take care of your spouse and children should disaster strike, you also need to be ready to take care of your four-legged companions, either in your home or elsewhere if you must evacuate. In order to be ready for this challenge, there are a number of steps you should take to make sure that your pets can be protected and cared for no matter what kind of emergency should occur.
Make a New Plan
When you think of all the things that could potentially happen – a fire, flood, earthquake, tornado, mudslide, power failure, terrorist attack, nuclear accident – it is easy to become a little overwhelmed because you know that no matter how diligent you are, there is no way to plan completely for every possible emergency. However, it is still important to make plans that are as detailed as possible because this will give you a baseline from which to work when disaster actually strikes. You may have to ad lib and react on the fly in the chaos and confusion of a real emergency, but you will be doing so from a position of readiness when you have well-thought out plans to work from. Therefore, you should construct a plan for what you and your family will do in the event of disaster, and that plan should include detailed instructions on how you will care for your pets.
Stocking Up to Stay at Home
Leaving your home in an emergency may turn out to be neither practical nor wise, which is why you should have supplies on hand to help you all survive there for a few days if power is lost and you have no way to get out. To properly care for your pets, the first thing you should think about is the most basic – food and water. You will need to have enough of both to sustain your animals for five to seven days in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, so you should have airtight, waterproof containers available that can hold what you will require. You should buy sufficient pet food and set it aside immediately, while there is no threat of danger – but it will need to be replaced with fresh supplies every two months. Bleach should be kept on hand because in an emergency it can be used to purify any water supplies that may have become contaminated (sixteen drops of bleach for every gallon of water should do the trick).
An animal first aid kit should be assembled, since the risk of injury to pets in a natural disaster situation is obviously high. It is best to consult with a veterinarian or another informed source for advice on what this kit should include. Also, you should always try to get new supplies of any medicines your animals might be taking before current supplies run out, so that you will always have a few days extra around in case your access to the outside world gets cut off.
Sanitation is another potential health concern; plenty of scoopable cat litter should always be kept in storage, along with plastic bags that can be used for cleaning out the litter box or for cleaning up after your dog. If you have a small animal such as a gerbil or guinea pig, you should have plenty of bedding on hand so you can change it for them frequently.
Naturally you would hope to be able to be with your pets if they are forced to stay in your home. But just in case you are away when a flood, tornado, or earthquake hits and cannot get back, you should make arrangements to have someone you know and trust come to take care of your pets until you or rescue workers can arrive. That person should be someone who lives within walking distance of your home, and of course, you should make sure they have a key to your house. For the benefit of rescue workers, you should have rescue alert stickers posted on your doors that can be filled out with specific information about what kind of pets you have in the home, along with a cell phone number where you can be reached if you are not present.
Being Prepared to Evacuate
A good plan should include ideas about what can be done if disaster forces you and your pets to leave your home. You will need cages or carriers appropriate for your particular type of pet, as well as leashes, collars, harnesses, or other similar equipment of restraint so that you will be able to control your dogs or other animals in case they panic in the confusion and tumult of a disaster situation. Some animals are notoriously poor travelers – cats in particular – so it could be a good idea to practice riding around with them in your automobile (inside of their carrier if the animal is not a dog) so they can become used to being transported in this way.
Hopefully, you will have arranged things ahead of time with family members or friends so you will have a place to take your animals if you must evacuate during an emergency. If this is not possible, however, you should contact your local humane society or animal shelter to get information about places that may accept animals if disaster should befall your area. If you find yourself needing to go to some kind of a public shelter, your dogs and cats should have ID collars and rabies tags to wear, and you should have copies of all of their medical records available to show to the people running the shelters. Without this kind of information and without the collars, the chances are good you won’t be allowed to keep your animals there.
Always Think Ahead
The key to doing anything well is to think it through and plan it out ahead of time. You, your family, and your pets can all make it through a natural disaster or other emergency safe and sound. But in order to make that happen, you must be as prepared as is humanly possible for every contingency that may develop. There are of course no guarantees in life. But if you do your best to be ready for anything that might come along, the chances of you and all of your loved ones surviving calamity will be greatly improved.
©2011 Off the Grid News