I’m a big fan of the Boy Scouts motto “Be Prepared,” and I’ve taken that a step further to always try to make sure I have my pets and family ready in case of a natural disaster. Having grown up on the outskirts of Tornado Alley, and now living right in the middle of it, I am always on high alert about severe storms. There isn’t anywhere that is really immune to the acts of Mother Nature, with the coasts battered by dangerous hurricanes every fall, the north being hit with blizzards during winter, the west having to flee from wildfires seemingly year-round, and even Hawaii having both volcanic lava and tropical storms just this year. No matter where you live, you should have a plan in place for you and your animals for what to do in the worst case scenario, and I’ve created a list of what that might include.
- Emergency Go Bag. I have a kit that stays in my vehicle that I call my ‘go bag.’ It has a human first aid kit including gauze, bandages, and OTC pain meds, as well as a few bottles of water and granola bars. For the dogs, I keep several slip-leads, current vaccination records, a Ziploc sized bag of food, and a battery operated fan. I also recommend keeping a blanket in your car during the winter in case you should be in a wreck or become stranded. Whether you do a lot of interstate driving (like me) or not much at all, you should at least have some preliminary supplies on hand at all times to make you and your pets more comfortable should you get stuck or have a vehicle malfunction.
- Medical Records. Vaccine and medical records are so important they really deserve their own listing. If you have to flee your home to due and impending weather-related threat and go to a shelter or motel, many of those places are only going to let your pets in if you have current vaccine records. The last thing on your mind if you are trying to evacuate should be calling your vet to get records sent to you. I try to always have several different copies. As mentioned above, I keep a set in my car. I also keep a set in my files at home. Most importantly, however, is I keep a digital file saved to my cloud access drive, so that I can access them from any device anywhere. If my phone and computer are lost, I can still prove that my animals are current on vaccines. If your pets are on any medications, make sure you have them somewhere easy to find and pack, and know their names in case they don’t get packed.
- Identification. The most important identification your pet can have is a microchip. They are relatively hard to lose, shelters scan for microchips, and they are not very expensive to get. While microchips are great, your pets should also have an ID on their collar. In the event that you are separated from your animals during a disaster, the more forms of identification you can have on your animals, the faster they can be returned to you. One interesting idea I have seen for large animals (and cats and dogs to an extent) is to paint your phone number onto their backs or bellies. When they are located, the rescuer can call that number and immediately be in touch with you.
- Training, Training, Training! We can’t prepare for everything, but we can prepare our animals to react in the safest way possible. I’m a strong believer that every small animal should be crate trained. In the event of having to evacuate to a hotel, shelter, or home of a relative or friend, your pets will need to be on their best behavior. Make sure they are comfortable being in their crates so that it’s not an added stressor for both you and them during potentially one of the most difficult times of your life. Additionally, dogs should be comfortable wearing a muzzle. The tornado shelter that I have access to lets in dogs as long as they are muzzled. You can train a dog to wear a muzzle with positive reinforcement, and there are many brands that do not restrict intake of air, food, or water while they are being worn.
- Know Where To Go. If you have to leave your house, have plans in place for where you can go. Do you have a friend or family member a few hours a way that you could stay with? Can they accommodate your animals? These are important questions to have sorted out beforehand. There are also several hotel chains that allow pets. Some hotels will be more lenient with their pet policies if they know you are seeking refuge. Try to at least be familiar with what these policies might be in your area.
We can’t always avoid acts of Mother Nature, but we can prepare for them. If the day comes that your home isn’t safe anymore, make sure that you and your pets are ready.