Disaster preparedness is something that many of us don’t think about until it’s too late. In light of the devastating natural disasters we have experienced last year, however, we think it’s time that we all got ourselves and our pets a little more prepared. Even if you manage to get yourself and your family out, you wouldn’t want to have your dog left behind in a forest fire.
What Does Disaster Preparedness Mean?
Disaster preparedness refers to any measures that you take to:
- Help you to avoid any disaster that is approaching.
- Lessen the impact of a disaster when it does hit.
- Mitigate the effects of a disaster when the disaster has passed.
What qualifies as a disaster:
A disaster is any sudden and catastrophic event that disrupts the “normal” functioning of a community and causes “human, material, and economic or environmental losses that exceed the community’s ability to cope using its own resources,” according to official IFRC classification.
(VULNERABILITY + HAZARD) / CAPACITY = DISASTER
Although we often categorize disasters as being “acts of God” or “natural events”, they can be the result of human actions as we recently saw in some of the California wildfires that were sparked by negligence.
Examples of disasters include:
- Ice storms
- Tropical cyclones
- Volcanic eruptions
Disaster Preparedness for Pet Owners
Creating a Disaster Preparedness Plan
The most important step in preparing yourself and your dogs or cats for any disaster is to have a plan in place. The purpose of this is so that everyone understands what they need to do to facilitate a safe evacuation or safe passage through the disaster.
You will find a disaster preparedness plan outline on the government’s “Ready” website that will help you to create a customized plan that considers your family’s specific needs, all according to FEMA recommendations.
When preparing for any one of these disasters, there are multiple categories of preparations to be made, including:
- Gathering basic supplies.
- Compiling contact information.
- Compiling important records and documents.
- Preparing your home for the approach of the disaster.
Basic Supplies and Disaster Preparedness Kit
As a pet owner, gathering basic supplies to create your disaster preparedness kit means doing so for you, your family, and your dog or cat. That means that in addition to including the items listed on the government’s Ready.gov disaster preparedness kit checklist, you also need to gather together supplies for your pet, including:
- At least three days’ worth of your pet’s food stored in an airtight and waterproof container.
- At least three days’ worth of water for your pet’s needs.
- All medications your pet needs to take (don’t forget to refill these ahead of time!)
- A crate or travel carrier.
- Waste bags, paper towels, and a bleach-based cleaner. (Some families keep these items in a litterbox that can be used as a designated potty area if they are trapped in a confined space.)
- A pet first aid kit with items specific to your dog or cat (for example, nail clippers, vet wrap bandage, first aid glue, a snake bite kit if pertinent, etc.)
- A spare collar, harness (a harness with a handle along the back is best) and leash complete with an identification tag.
- A clear photograph of your pet as well as a photograph of you and your pet together.
- Treats that can be used to lure your dog if needed.
- Bedding for your dog.
- A favorite toy for comfort and that can be used as a lure if needed.
- A pet first aid reference guide.
Compiling Contact Information
When preparing for a disaster with your pet, be sure that you have all of your contact information in one location. Most of us rely on our phones to store this information, but if your phone battery dies or your phone gets lost or damaged, you need to be able to access emergency contact information another way.
We recommend keeping a traditional phone/address book as well as keeping digital copies of this information on a small flash drive and keeping both of these items in a safe airtight, waterproof container. Some of the contacts that you should include in your address book as well as your flash drive include:
- Your spouse/child/parent’s contact information if you don’t know it already!
- Your doctor
- The three nearest hospitals
- The three nearest urgent care facilities
- Your veterinarian
- The three nearest…