If you are like most animal owners, you pet is like a member of the family. Don’t forget about them when making your household emergency plans! They will be affected by a natural disaster, too. And their survival also depends on advance planning.
The first rule is, if you evacuate your home do not leave your pets behind! If it’s too dangerous for you, it’s too dangerous for them. When you leave, it is very unlikely that they will survive on their own. And if they do, it may be very difficult to find them when you return. So find out in advance if the place you’re evacuating to permits pets. Most public shelters do not allow animals inside for health and safety reasons. So consider alternatives like family and friends outside your area that would be willing to shelter both you and your pets. Call area hotels and motels to see if they allow pets. Don’t leave it until the last minute.
If you are not home when disaster strikes, be sure to have a plan for someone to pick them up. You might consider a buddy system with your neighbors and friends, or other local pet owners. Keep their phone numbers with you; on your cell phone contact list is a good place.
Have three days of pet supplies on hand with your family emergency kit as well. That includes food, bottled water, medicines and medical records, and anything else your animals may need over an extended period of time. Don’t count on them sharing your food and water! If you shelter in place, plan for their sanitary needs as you would your own. If you leave, be sure to take their emergency kit along with yours. Size and space might be an issue, so plan ahead for that. If you’re not at home, make sure those in your buddy system know where to find your emergency pet supplies. If you are part of a buddy system, it’s a good idea to have extra supplies on hand in case you’re the one called on to make the pick-up. After many serious hurricane disasters it has taken days before homeowners are allowed to return. And food may be in short supply for weeks. Remember Sandy and Katrina?
And as always, make sure your pets have identification tags on them at all times. They suffer from the trauma just like you do and may bolt out of fright. That ID could be the difference between getting Fido back or never seeing him again.
For more helpful tips, see the brochure Prepare for Emergencies Now: Information for Pet Owners on the FEMA website.