I volunteer with a national organization that does emergency animal sheltering for disasters and criminal siezures. When we're not involved in a response, we are encouraged to go to pet or community safety events to educate people on how to have a disaster plan for their pets. Since so many pet owners don't think beyone grab the pets and go, I accepted an offer from a Wisconsin dog forum called Wisconsin Wags to post a series of articles on emergency preparedness on their site. With the permission of this administrator, I will be re-posting them to this forum. As a pet owner (cats), a disaster responder, and the daughter of a fireman, I would like to think I know a lot about this subject, but I know I am not a complete expert. I welcome your comments, questions, and suggestions.
1. Wake Up Call
6/21/2010 I was watching weather reports about the tornado that hit Eagle, WI. A reporter was covering the story from the Incident Command Center at the Eagle Fire Station. He was interviewing survivors, including a family with two dogs who was waiting for friends to come pick the family up. Others told stories like, "We grabbed the cat and dog and got to the basement just in time."
What if that had been you? What would you have done? Could YOU have gotten all or your animals to the basement in time? Do you have extra supplies and food down there in case you have to survive until roads are cleared and help can get to you? Do you have a first aid kit with only pet-safe items in it, and do you know how to use it? Could you control bleeding, know what to do about an impaled object, or stabilize a broken limb until you could get your pet to a vet? If your regular vet is shut down, do you have your pet's medical records so another vet could get up to speed quickly? If your house is damaged and your pet panics and escapes, are they wearing ID tags? Are they microchipped in case the tags come off and get lost? Do you have current ID photos in your emergency kit so you can make up a Lost Pet poster or identify your pet with Animal Control? What about after you get out; if your homeowners policy will pay to house you while repairs are being made, does that include your pet?
It's a lot to think about. Most people don't think beyond escaping the immediate threat. As I like to say, there's more to evacuation than put the dog in the car and go. Tune in regularly and we can get the pet community better prepared. Just because we don't get hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, or major wildfires here in the upper midwest doesn't mean we don't need it. Those of you who do live in disaster prone areas know you will need to be prepared. So maybe you can glean some additional suggestions from this that will be usefull. And people, don't forget that man-made disasters can strike anywhere, any time!. Remember; you are your pet's first line of defense in an emergency.
3/11/2012 Today is the one year aniversary of the huge earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Pay attention to all the documentaries that are being re-run. Remember the VERY disaster-prone spring and summer of 2011 with the floods, tornados, an east coast hurricane wildfires, and severe drought. With the recent huge outbreak of tornados accross the midwest, it's looking like this year might be lively too. GET READY!
Here i was thinking I had good sense. Guess not. We DO keep supplies in the trunk of our cars both for us and the pets. Extra cash in our wallets. Ever since 9/11 we have been ready to flee Chicago if needed....and possible. We also remember to rotate the stuff so it is not outdated.
03-13-2012, 02:37 PM, (This post was last modified: 03-13-2012, 02:52 PM by Karenskatz.)
2.What is an Emergency?
Calling it "Disaster Preparedness" is a bit misleading. That makes people think of things like tornados, floods, wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes, mudslides, etc. The problem with that is tornados, floods, and wildfires are infrequent, and hurricanes and earthquakes virtually nonexistant.* So people in the upper midwest think they're safe. They don't consider that they are vunerable to fires, chemical spills, plane crashes, explosions and such. Mother Nature isn't the only threat around. And man-made threats can happen anywhere, anytime, to anyone. Better to call this part of the website "Emergency Preparedness". An emergency is anything that effects you suddenly and adversly and causes you to react to manage the situation until it can be resolved or you can get help. It can be as broad as another Katrina, or as simple as a gas main leak on your block. It can even be that midnight trip to the emergency vet with a sick or injured pet that can't wait until morning (or Monday). Normally, our typical reaction to any emergency is to call 911. But you can't call paramedics for an injured pet. Or there might not be time to call, the phone lines or cell towers might be down, or the 911 authorities might be the ones telling you to get the heck out NOW! Your reaction might be to grab your family and pets and run for it, to hunker down and find shelter, or to do your best to keep your pet alive until you can get them to the vet.
Am I scaring you? I shouldn't be. You are scared if you are threatened by a situation you don't know how to react to. If you have considered what you might have to face, thought out what you could do in each situation, worked out what your options are, decided what tools and equipment you might need and assembled them, and (most of all) rehearsed your response, then you won't be scared. Your training and practice will click in and you will react. And that can save valuable time. It's not complicated. Mostly, you need to have a plan of action in mind and be prepared to follow it. If you're dithering and running in circles, you're part of the problem and not part of the solution.
The first thing you need to look at is what sort of situations you might be facing. In each case, your reaction will be to either take shelter or get out. Some situations, like an imminent explosion or an advancing chemical cloud, you grab and run. Others, like a flood or hurricane, you have to get out but you can do it calmly in an orderly fashion. Still others, you can choose to evacuate or stay. In a winter time power failure, you might decided to send the kids and pets to stay elsewhere, while you stay to drain the pipes and winterise the house. In the case of a tornado warning or if the siren goes off, there's no choice; take cover! Some things, like earthquakes or explosions, strike without warning. Then your plan is based on how to get by until help arrives and a way to get out is cleared. Looking after kids in these situations can be difficult, but adding pets to the mix is another thing entirely. They are perpetual two year olds. They don't understand that the food has to last a while, that the wire in the street could be dangerous, why everyone is upset. They need their own equipment and food. You need to be prepared to get them out of harm's way and care for them until you can get life back to normal. And that takes some pre-planning. It's not complicated. In furure posts I will outline a number of simple steps you can take to make evacuation with pets go more smoothly.
*This was originally written for a Wisconsin forum.
BW; 9/11 did wake a lot of people up to the fact that you don't have to live in a storm zone to be hit. You have good preparations. Maybe you can add rotating food stocks to the twice a year change the clocks and smoke alarm batteries. Just curious, are you actually in the city, or out in the suburbs? I grew up in the western 'burbs of Chicago, and have been trying to move back there for years. I try to keep track of what's going on with animals down there, since I figure that if anything big happen in Chicago, Milwaukee will respond (at least some of us), and vice verse.
When I win the lottery. LaGrange Park is not exactly Oak Brook or Hinsdale, but it's still pricey. Meanwhile I'm trying to find gas money to come down and vist my nephiew and his family once in a while. Do you ever go to events at Treehouse Animal shelter? Were you at their fundraising walk year before last when it rained? I was there with my Be Prepared display (under plastic).
03-23-2012, 05:31 PM, (This post was last modified: 03-26-2012, 04:00 PM by Karenskatz.)
3. Where To Go, pt 1
(First posted July 4, 2010) Today is July 4th. One year ago, two ****** playing with fireworks shot a flare into the roof of the Patrick Cudahy Meat Plant and set it on fire. The fire raged for several days, and at one point came close enough to the huge tanks of amonia refridgerant that an evacuation order for anyone within one mile of the plant was given. People were told to take their pets, and the Wisconsin Humane Society set up an emergency animal shelter next to the Red Cross shelter at South Milwaukee High School. The fire was gotten under control before the tanks were reached, and people were back in their homes that same evening, but it could have been much worse. The Red Cross is very efficient at setting up and operating emergency shelters, and with the lessons of Weyauwega and Katrina behind us, we have gotten better at providing for pets, But an emergency shelter is intended to be an initial meet-up and sort-out point, and as a court of last resort for those with absolutly no other place to stay. So what are your options?
First, do you have your own transportation, and can you afford a hotel or motel for at least a few days? Or will your homeownwer insurance pay to put you up until you can get back into your house? Do you know what hotels or motels you can go to with your pets? http://www.petswelcome.com will help you locate pet-friendly motels, but be aware that the term "pet-friendly" does NOT mean all pets. Contact the individual facilities and find out what their rules are for pets. Some may not allow more than one pet per room. Or no dogs over thirty pounds. Or no birds. Or they require a non-refundable pet deposit. Or there are a limited number of rooms pets are allowed in, and when those are full you are out of luck. So know where you can go with your particular pets, and check every year or so to be sure the policy hasn't changed. Also have several back-up choices in case your first choice is full.
If you choose to stay with friends or relatives, make sure there are no allergies, condo or appartment rules, or conflicts with their pets that would prohibit this. Take a close look at how you would fit in. Would your dog need to be shut in a bedroom or the basement when no one is home so it doesn't get into trouble? Maybe you need to bring or buy a pet crate. Is the yard securely fenced so the dog can get some exercise? Or do you need to provide a tie-out stake and chain? What if your friends/relatives are out of town? Do you have a back-up plan? If you decide to board your dog at a kennel, do you have the proper proof of vacinations with you? What if they fill up; do you have a back-up plan?
You are realy much better off making your own arrangements for where to stay, and the best time to do this is BEFORE you need it. Have a plan.
03-26-2012, 03:58 PM, (This post was last modified: 04-07-2012, 04:26 PM by Karenskatz.)
4 Where to Go, pt 2
And what if your only option is the Red Cross shelter? Idealy, the pet shelter will be set up next to the people shelter so you can go over several times a day and care for your own pet. This gives you something to do besides sit and worry about your house, and it comforts your pet to have their familiar person around. This concept is called co-sheltering, and it's what the organization in charge will try to do but it might not always be possible. It depends on the available facilities and how many people they are trying to shelter. During the '08 flooding in Cedar Rapids, IA, there were several Red Cross shelters in the suburbs, and the pet shelter (which operated for a month and a half) was located in the equestrian show barn at the community college. People were encouraged to come visit their pets, but transportation was sometimes an issue. Volunteers were often doing the feeding and walking. While I can't speak for animal sheltering organizations other than the one I volunteer with, there will likely be some system of identification to prove you are the pet's rightfull owner, and you will have to check in and out when you come to care for them. You might also be escourted to and from your pet. Children might not be allowed in the shelter. This is for the safety and liability of everyone involoved. Think of this pet shelter in terms of a daycare center of sorts; we want to take very good care of these animals and make sure they get back to the right person. Be prepared to put up with some red tape.
The pet shelter will likely be operated by, or under the authority of, the local animal authorities (often Animal Control). They will dictate how the pet shelter will operate. They will dictate when the shelter will end and you willl have to have your pets out whether you have a place to stay or not. They will also dictate what will happen to unclaimed pets. In some cases this will be based on an arrangement with Emergency Management, in other cases it might be based on their staandard policies for stray animals. Idealy, they have mutual-aide agreements with surrounding communities for assistance.
Notice that I said "Red Cross Shelter" above. In the hurricane that went up the east coast in 2011, there were reports in the news of shelters allowing pets to shelter with their owners. During the wildfires in SanDiego a few years back where Qualcom Stadium was turned into a shelter, news coverage showed families and their pets sheltering together. What's the difference? I'm told the Red Cross can not allow pets in their shelters because they cook and serve food and therefor have to adhere to resteraunt health codes. The Red cross is the organization communities usually turn to to shelter and care for displaced persons after a disaster. I gather from what i heard that the shelters that opened during Hurricane that were pet friendly were community run shelters, probably for people living in high risk areas to ride out the hurricane in. If they serve any food, it's most likely MREs They can make their own rules about allowing pets. That's the difference. Please note that bonified service animals MUST be allowed anywhere the person they assist goes, and will always be an exception to No Pets rules. I was told by someone from Florida that some communities and military bases offer shelters like this for their people, and it's a case of "OK, here's the building. Bring everything you need." or "There's some cots and cases of MREs stored in the back, set it up yourself." I'm not sure what the case was with Qualcom was; maybe this was a community shelter, or maybe the way the building was set up got around the resteraunt codes. This where it pays to find out what threats are most likely in your area, and what your local Emergency Management's plan is.
No matter what the arrangement for an emergenccy pet shelter is, you are better off making your own arrangements if you possibly can. So PLAN AHEAD!!!
So now that you have assesed what constitutes an emergency, what your reactions to different situations might be, and where you can go if you have to get out, next we look at what you need to have ready to grab as you go out the door. The most important thing, obviously, is your pet(s). Why state the obvious? Well believe it or not, some people don't always think it's neccessary. Also, in the first minutes of a large event there isn't always a lot of information to go on. Authorities are still assessing the situation. They are most concered with preventing people from being injured or killed, so they might order an evacuation as a precautionary measure. Yes, you might be back home in an hour or two, but you can't count on that! When a freight train derailed in the Wisconsin town of Weyauwega causing several tank cars of LP gas to catch fire and the fire chief ordered the town evacuated, people were generally told it was "until the fire is put out." That's all anyone knew at the time. What does that sound like to you? A few hours? Maybe a day? This was in 1996, and back then the common thought was to leave the pets with two days food and water and they'll be OK. people were not told to take their pets with. As the tank cars continued to burn and the pressure inside them built to the point where they could explode, it was deemed too dangerous for the firefighters to continue fighting the fire until more of the contents had burned off, lowering the pressure in the tankers. The evacuation lasted for 18 days. In the case of Hurricane Katrina, people had been through it all before so many times that they thought they knew just what to expect. Either it wold be another false allarm and they would be back home in a day, or the hurricane would blow through and in two or three days they would be back home. Everyone I talked to, no matter what their story of why they did or didn't evacuate or could or couldn't take their pets, all ended their story with the same line; "Nobody counted on the flooding." So if you are told to get out, ALWAYS take your pets, no matter what you think of the situation or how long you think you will be gone. Better a dozen false allarms than than one major case of regret.
So next comes HOW. You put the pet in the car and go, right? But what if you don't have access to a car? What if you don't have room in the car for all the pets and people? What if you're not home at the time? What if you have too many animals for one trip? What if you have animals that are difficult to transport (like horses, or tropical fish)? And what do you need to take with to care for these animals? These are all things you need to consider. All this in addition to what you have to consider for evacuating your kids, seniors, etc. See why pre planning is so important?
Dogs are probably the simplest. To their wild ancestors, the pack represented safety, so they wanted to stick with the pack. For domestic dogs, their people are their pack. "A car ride? Cool! Let's go!" You will need to have a secure collar and leash, and I don't mean a retractable leash. If your dog requires a harness or halter to control them, keep it ready to grab in a hurry. If your dog is small enough to ride in a carrier, I strongly recomend it to keep them safe and controled. Carriers are also the best way to keep them safe if you have to shelter in place. If you have to be evacuated by bus there might or might not be rules about having pets in carriers, but either way they will be more welcome and be safer if they're contained in some way. With cats, a carrier is a MUST! They're not generally good travelers, and all the noise and confusion could panic them. Likewise a carrier is the best solution for ferrets, rabbits, chinchillas, sugar gliders, hedgehogs, gineapigs, rats, birds, and some lizards, snakes, and tortises. Reptile experts have told me that larger reptiles can travel well in plastic tote bins. For tiny pocket pets like hamsters, gerbils, or mice you can buy a small travel cage or make one out of a plastic shoebox. Much easier than trying to cram that whole big habitrail in your car. Likewise tiny birds can be transfered to a small birdcage if their house cage is too big. Don't do like the fellow who brought his Aftican Grey parrot to the bus evacuation point for Hurricane Gustav in it's large house cage. We didn't have a hardside cat carrier to transfer it to, so we managed to cram the large cage into one of the bus seats, but the bird almost ended up riding in the truck with the larger dogs. Horses require a lot of preplanning, as well as a trailer to haul them in, and you have to train them to load into the trailer. Fish I will leave to the fish experts on this forum in another instalment.
Make sure that everything that can wear a collar, harness or halter is also wearing identification! It also helps to add a temporary tag with the address and phone number of where you will be staying or an alternate phone number outside the area that can relay a message to you. The kind of key tags you can write on work well for this. Animals in cages or carriers should have this info on their enclosures. Horses should have ID on their halters, or write it on their side with a livestock crayon. And people, I can't say this enough; MICROCHIP! Yes, it takes a scanner to read it, but that's the one form of ID your pet can't lose. If possible, have an alternate contact (your vet, or someone in another town) on file with the chip company along with your own info. And even if your pet has been gone so long that you are sure you will never see them again, keep your info up to date with the microchip registry. There are many stories of pets that showed up months or even years later. That chip is also your proof of ownership if there is ever a dispute. A lot of the heartaches after Katrina could have been avoided with michrochips.
Future instalments will cover what else you should bring and other considerations.
Karenskatz, I have been to treehouse several time. As for the fundraising walk, no. I have been battling stage four renal cancer and do not do a lot of walking any more. The cancer has traveled to mu lungs and I don't have enough wind to walk far. I am not able to do as much volunteering as I used to do. My passion is dogs so I would usually volunteer somewhere to help them.
Treehouse is now working with dogs too, at their second location. But if not them, there are many worthy animal groups in the Chicago area. Chicagoland Tails prints a huge list in every issue. We might still run into each other some day. Meanwhile, I enjoy our discisions on line.
OK, you've got your pet. What else do you need? Food? Toys? Crate? Sometimes. Depends on where you are going, and whether or not you will be able to buy more when you get there. Think. What is unique to your pet alone? What can't you go out and buy, and won't have access to if your vet is shut down? Records. If you don't pack anything else, pack this.
If your pet gets sick while you are evacuated or if you are vacationing out of town or if you have to make that midnight trip to the all-night emergency vet, you can't get to your regular vet so bringing your pet's medical records with you will help get a strange vet up to speed, especially if your pet has an ongoing condition or is on medication for anything. It's also useful for a pet sitter if they have to take your pet to a vet. They probably don't know your pet's medical history as well as you do. And what if you need to check your dog into a boarding kennel? Or board your cat (or whatever)? They're going to want proof of rabies vacination. What if your pet gets lost while you're away from your familiar territory? They won't be able to find their way back. The faster you can get a lost-pet poster put together and destributed and notify animal control, the better. But how will they know what your pet looks like? Try describing your pet to someone and see if they can identify them. It's harder than you think, especially if they're a purebred that looks like any other of their breed. Having some good photographs with your records will make it a lot easier for your pet to be identified. Be sure to include shots of any unique markings, even on paw pads or the tongue. Also photograph any ear tatoos. Having a copy of their microchip number will be even better. And what about claiming your pet from animal control, or checking them out of an emergency shelter? How do you prove that you're the owner? If they can scan the microchip and you've kept the registration up to date and you have ID proving who you are, that should be suficient. Of course, if your pet is wearing tags (ID and/or licence) that would simplify things. But what if they can't scan the chip, if you never registered the chip, if your pet's not chipped, or if they weren't wearing tags? Having a photo of you and your pet together will help. With these bacics you should have everything you pet will need that you can not buy elsewhere.
It's important to keep all these records together ion a folder, envelope or something, in a place where it won't get lost and is easy to grap quickly on your way out the door. I have numerous cats, and I take in strays and find homes for them. To keep all their medical records straight, they each have their own folder, and all these folders are in a small tote bag that hangs on the kitchen doorknob. Later i realised that if I include microchip info, licence tag numbers, and some good photos, they were all set for whatever. My standard instructions to my cat sitters are; if anyone gets sick or hurt, put them in a carrier, grab the bag, and head for the vet. Whatever you'll need will be somewhere in that bag. Now I'm kind of old school. I like the convenience of paper records, and I'm not used to thinking in terms of computers. But someone pointed out to me that these records and photos can be scanned and transfered to a DVD or thumb-drive for easier storage. This might be easier to carry, but just in case there's no computer handy, I recomend keeping paper copies in addition. I'm even more out of date when it comes to cell phones. At a disaster response workshop I learned that you can store family info on your self, kids, and even pets on your smart phone. Yes, there's an ap for that! The easiest grab-and-go yet!