Does your smoke detector have fresh batteries?
Do you have a carbon monoxide detector? Are those batteries fresh?
What about your fire extinguisher? Is it charged and not expired? Did you know they expire??
And where do you plan to go if your area is hit with a natural disaster?
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It’s a mess out there!
Y’all, the spate of national catastrophes–from the west coast on fire to catastrophic hurricanes and flooding to savage tornadoes–one might assume that the earth is trying to knock us all off. That may be true, and this post isn’t about that, but all these disasters got me thinking: Am I prepared for an emergency?
You see all the heart-wrenching pictures and videos coming out of the south: animals trapped, terrified, abandoned and now homeless. While nothing could make me leave my pets, I have been thinking about how we can be better prepared for all kinds of emergencies from the micro like a house fire to the macro like a tornado.
Note 1: I plan to follow this post up with a pet first aid post. John and I took the Red Cross pet first aid course a while ago, and it’s time we brush up on those skills and repack our first aid kit. I’ll share that just as soon as I get it together!
Note 2: I can really only speak to dogs and cats, but I’d LOVE to get input from those of you with other animals like birds, lizards, hamsters, etc. I’d love to learn how you can add to this list for those other pets, beyond just grabbing their cage? Although maybe that’s it? If you have experience here, please share in the comments so we can all learn more!
When we lived in Louisiana, I prepared for a hurricane. Here in Indiana, I need to prepare for a tornado. In fact, I’m remiss… we’ve been in this house three years and have a big, humongous problem if we were to have a tornado: The basement isn’t cat-proofed. Which brings me to my first emergency preparedness tip:
Create an emergency preparedness plan for your pets
Are you ready for a natural disaster?
Generally speaking, based on your geography you probably know the kinds of natural disasters you might face in addition to “common” emergencies like house fires. So, plan to those. If you’re in the Midwest and need a tornado plan, figure out where you’ll go and scope the space. Our basement has a ton of hazards for the cats, so I need to tackle things like closing up the crawl space. If you’re on the shore, what’s your hurricane-evacuation route and where are there pet-friendly shelters or hotels along the way?
What’s your escape plan in case of a fire?
Can you reliably call your pets to come and get them leashed or crated to make a quick escape? Again, this is a place we’re lacking with the cats. And, honestly, this is what sparked this whole post. I watched people on the news mourn their cats because they couldn’t find them when they needed to escape. It’s so utterly heartbreaking, and it made me realize I have the same problem! So, in addition to tornado prep, I’m also adding a layer of disaster/emergency/fire preparedness for the cats. I haven’t figured it all the way out yet, but I’m going to train them to get in their crates on cue. I think it will entail the clicker and lots of fresh sushi… but I’m determined. (My friend Erik crate trained his cat, so I know it can be done!!!)
Build an emergency preparedness kit for your pets
In a life-threatening emergency, do you have the items you need to keep you and your pets safe? Imagine if you only had a couple minutes to flee, like in a fire. Do you know what you need to grab and where it’s stored?
This is (yet another) place we’re unprepared. In Louisiana, we had our hurricane stuff organized and ready to go. Here, I’m breaking this into two phases: First, putting a tornado kit in the basement. This will include flashlights, candles, water, a small first-aid kit (like band-aids and stuff… nothing too extensive), and pet stuff. The pet stuff will include leashes for all three, additional water, Coop’s pop-up emergency crate, and canned food. A lot of resources suggest emergency kits contain three days’ worth of food and water for people and pets. You have to decide for yourself whether or not that’s necessary when stocking your kit, but I’m aiming for a day-ish.
Also, going back to my intro: Make sure you have a fire extinguisher at home! Make sure it’s not expired. Change your batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors; our fire station recommends changing all those batteries the same day you change your clocks each year. That way, it’s just part of your routine!
For the second piece, this is specific to an evacuation, like if we had to leave immediately. What all would I need to take for us and for the pets? An emergency preparedness kit for your pet needs to include at the minimum (btw, if you don’t want to write all this down, I have a free printable at the bottom of the post):
- a jump drive with all their vet records and, just in case the absolute worst happens, a lost pet flier that’s ready to go
- a few days’ worth of canned food and water
- first-aid supplies (you can buy pre-made kits like this or this… I’m actually debating buying that second one vs. assembling our own… tbd)
- an extra leash and collar with tags that are correct (and while you’re at it, check the tags they’re wearing now to confirm the info is recent)
- bathroom gear like a disposable litter tray and litter or potty pads and pickup bags
- bowls (we really like these because they take up no space and weigh very little)
- a blanket
- ideal: a toy or some treats
A lot of evacuation sites like shelters require pets to be kenneled, so a pop-up crate is great, too. We have one similar to this for Cooper, and as part of your emergency preparedness–like we’re doing with the cats–train your pet to the crate first so it’s not another terrifying part of an evacuation.
Organize your emergency preparedness pet stuff
OK, last but definitely not least, you gotta organize all these pieces. It will do you no good to buy all the first aid kit stuff and canned food if you can’t find it when you need to evacuate!
My suggestion: Create two sets of your stuff, one for hunkering down at home and one for evacuating. Put everything you need in one bag for each, then store it somewhere that makes sense. For us, our tornado stuff would go in the basement, and our evacuation stuff would go in the garage. Make sure everyone in your family knows where both bags are stored because, don’t forget, you might not be home at the time of an emergency! Everyone needs to be equally prepped!
If you’ve decided you need to train something–kenneling your dog in a pop-up crate, for instance, or getting your cats to go into their on cue–slot that time into your calendar so that it actually happens. Too often, emergency preparedness is put off… until an emergency, when it’s too late to be thorough.
If you’d like some guidance through the planning process, I created a free download that contains an Emergency Preparedness Kit for Pets Checklist along with a worksheet to map out your family’s preparedness plan. You can snag that for free here.
OK, now it’s your turn!
Are you and your pets prepared from an emergency? Do you have an evacuation plan or a preparedness kit ready to go? What’s your next step in being ready for an emergency? Please share in the comments!