There have been a lot of natural disasters lately. It's frightening to think of having to deal with something like a tornado or storm flood, and many of us try to make ourselves feel safe by thinking "Oh, that will never happen to me". But you never know when some sort of emergency will happen. It could be a large-scale natural disaster or a local issue. Whatever the emergency, the key to dealing with the situation is to be prepared, and that includes having a plan to care for your pets.
There are several websites that have good information about preparing for an emergency if you have pets. A good place to start is the printable checklist of basic items at Ready.Gov There are some really good tips here. I never thought to have a photo of me and my pet together to document ownership!
FEMA - the Federal Emergency Management Agency Notice the first thing FEMA says: If you evacuate your home, DO NOT LEAVE YOUR PETS BEHIND!
A printable PDF of the Petfinder Disaster Preparedness Kit Checklist . Here's the regular web page with the same information.
A printable PDF of the Humane Society disaster planning checklist is another resource. They also have a page with more general emergency preparedness information about sheltering in place and neighbors helping neighbors.
The ASPCA has a comprehensive disaster preparedness page with information for birds, reptiles, and small animals like hamsters.
If all the information seems overwhelming, just start with the basics. Preparing even a little bit is better than not preparing at all. Having a plastic storage container with a week's worth of food, water, clean-up supplies (poop bags, litter), a few toys, a plastic tarp, and a blanket will be a great resource in an emergency. When you have that prepared, use the lists on those websites and add a few more items.
Remember to keep some extra food and water on hand at all times, and make sure to buy fresh and use the older items. If your pet requires medication, try to have an extra week or two on hand. Um...you can do all this for you too! Remember the airplane warnings - put your oxygen mask on before helping your child. If you aren't safe and prepared for yourself, it's harder for you to help your pet.
If you always have a collar and ID tag on your pet, you've already started preparing.
For medical history, I have a folder of each pet's medical information. This is something I do as a regular part of caring for my pets, not specifically for emergency planning. In it I keep records of their vet visits, lab tests, and other important information like their microchip information. I leave the folder out for the pet sitter, but it would be something I'd grab in an emergency. On the front of the folder I have their photo and a one-page summary of all the important information. Here's an example of Bentley's health summary. When he was older he had a lot of health issues and it was important that anyone who was caring for him knew exactly what to do for him.
After reading the Ready.gov information, one thing I need to change is to have photos of both me and my husband with the pets. Right now, all I have is photos of the pets in their medical history folder.
If there's an emergency, you can be calm and know that you're prepared. Grab your pet, your supplies, and keep everyone safe.
With just a little planning and effort, you can do a lot to be prepared for an emergency - not just for your pet, but for you too. It can even be kind-of fun to shop for emergency supplies. When else do you get to buy those space-age-foil-blankets and glow-sticks?! And this is a perfect excuse to buy freeze-dried treats for your pet. They'll be great in your emergency supply container.