DISASTER AWARENESS AND PREPAREDNESS
Imagine that right now you only had 15 minutes to evacuate yourself, your family, your pets, and all necessary supplies for at least one week. Could you do it safely? There isn’t a state in the union that is immune to nature’s fury—thunderstorms, blizzards, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, heat waves, wildfires, ice storms, earthquakes.
Then there are chemical spills, train derailments, acts of terrorism. Even smaller incidents such as gas leaks and minor flooding can keep you away from your animals for extended periods of time. No one is impervious to the possibility of being affected, but the key to survival in any disaster situation—whether natural or manmade—is to know your enemy and be prepared for yourself, your family, and your pets.
If you have never been through a disaster, it’s difficult to imagine the stress, chaos, and everything that could possibly go wrong, but believe me, if you talk to people who have, they’ll give you an earful. We all need to be prepared and learn how to best deal with disasters to minimize stress and possible danger to ourselves and our pets. A good rule of thumb: If it’s not safe for children, it’s not safe for animals.
During disaster situations, our pets—whose lives revolve around us and who depend on us for their every need—often become victims. The people they have trusted and the homes they have shared vanish, leaving them suddenly alone, frightened, hungry, thirsty, and often injured and in pain. Planning may seem unnecessary, but it’s absolutely essential in ensuring the safety and survival of your pet. We can’t always prevent disasters from happening, but we can plan for the consequences, such as loss of electricity, undrinkable water, damage to homes and community buildings, and other disruptions in our normal, everyday life that wreak havoc on us and pets that thrive under our routine. Sometimes the aftermath is worse than the disaster itself. During times of disaster, emergency systems, all lines of communication, public systems, and resources are disrupted or overburdened, and you may become isolated as inevitable turmoil results. Pets that are left to fend for themselves often die a miserable death due to predation, disease, starvation, and dehydration. So
never leave your pet behind!
Now is the time to ask your local emergency management agency about your state’s disaster preparedness plan. Familiarizing yourself with your community’s disaster plan is an important safeguard for you and your pets. Many communities in disaster-prone areas have pre-designated locations like state fairgrounds, racetracks, shelters, stadiums, or veterinary hospitals for emergency housing of animals if a crisis arises.