There’s been a lot of exposure about the pets left to fend for themselves during the recent hurricanes. It makes one wonder: Had their humans been more prepared, would those pets still have been left behind? We certainly hope not.
Preparedness is a key factor when it comes to successful evacuations in any type of natural disaster. No matter where you live in the U.S., your part of the country has tendencies toward certain weather-related conditions. Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and blizzards all fall under the “severe” category and can quickly become natural disasters requiring evacuation.
These weather incidents can happen suddenly, which leaves less time to prepare and evacuate. This is why it’s critical to practice preparedness regardless of whether a weather event is forecasted for the immediate future.
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“If you must evacuate your home in a crisis, plan for the worst-case scenario,” advises the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). “Even if you think you may be gone for only a day, assume that you may not be allowed to return for several weeks.”
You will need these items at hand when evacuating with your pet:
- Pet food
- Bottled water
- Medications with an accompanying sheet describing their dosages
- First aid supplies
- Equipment such as dishes, leashes, collars, carriers and restraints
- Veterinary records
- Identifying tags with your pets’ names and your information
Place items like paperwork and medications in a waterproof container, and label your pets’ carriers with your pets’ names as well as your name and phone number.
When evacuating, time is of the essence. Pre-packing a kit with these items and storing it in an easy-to-reach place ensures a faster and more organized departure. Be sure to rotate out food and medications that expire or are no longer needed periodically.
Microchipping your pet is also strongly recommended. In the event your pet becomes lost, microchipping with up-to-date information is one of the key tools shelters, rescues and animal control officers will use to help reunite you with your pet.
Places to Go
Trying to find somewhere that will accept you and your pets can be tricky, particularly in the 11th hour, when hotels just out of the danger zone will be filling up rapidly. Hotels that accept pets are not always easy to find, especially when you’re in a hurry.
Before a storm hits, take some time to research hotels in your state. Keep a list of those that accept pets, and at the first hint that you will need to evacuate, call and book a room. Remember, the longer you wait, the less likely it is you’re going to find an available room.
Another option is to discuss evacuation scenarios with friends and family who may live within your state or the next state over. Ask them if you can count on them to shelter you and your pets in the event of an evacuation.
Lastly, look into human shelters in your area that will accept pets in the event of an evacuation. Some people simply can’t evacuate, and that’s OK. Shelters are opened exactly for this reason. Knowing ahead of time which will accept pets will help make your evacuation go more smoothly.
If an evacuation order is given, you will be sharing the roads with thousands of others all trying to go the same way you are going. There will be hours of traffic to contend with, possibly prohibiting you from leaving the area before the bad weather begins.
You may even be asked to evacuate before a storm warning is even officially issued. “[E]mergency planners might calculate that, say, evacuating the Florida Keys requires 24 hours, and that tropical-force winds might arrive 36 hours before the eye of the hurricane hits, meaning the evacuation needs to commence 60 hours before the storm-surge risk peaks,” Susan Cutter, director of the Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute at the University of South Carolina, recently told LiveScience. “[T]hat may mean evacuating before the … warning is officially out, based on the lead time that the National Hurricane Center provides (typically 48 hours for a hurricane watch or warning and less time for storm-surge warnings).”
Stay abreast of local news whether it’s by social media, television or radio so you can be as informed as possible.
Watch this photographer evacuate her mother and family dogs after Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, Texas:
Preparedness Prevents Stress
Being prepared really does help mitigate stress for both you and your pets. When you have to evacuate, often it’s hastily done, and your pets’ routines are thrown completely out of whack. This can be incredibly stressful for your animals, causing them to behave oddly. They may vocalize, cry, urinate or defecate, tremble or show other signs that they’re upset.
Being prepared allows you to remain much calmer in the event of an evacuation, and your pet will pick up on how you feel. If you and your family are packed haphazardly into your vehicle, tensions high, there’s arguing, you’re stuck in traffic and everyone’s generally upset, your pets will react accordingly. Conversely, if you are all calm and things are organized, it’s likely your pet will remain much calmer.
Taking a little time to set yourself up before storm season begins can make all the difference if the worst-case scenario arrives and you have to evacuate. Being prepared will ensure that you and your pets have the safest possible experience.
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