by Samantha Grant, Pet Specialty Expert & Retail Associate
I have been planning this blog post for a little while, because late summer and early fall is “fire season” here in southern California, but with Hurricane Harvey devastating Texas and the southern region, the time to discuss tips and strategies for disaster preparedness is especially relevant. I’ve personally had to evacuate due to wildfires four or five times throughout my life, several times with livestock in addition to our family’s house pets. Dealing with disaster is never easy, and the challenges of surviving a major event with your animals presents some unique problems.
The first thing to keep in mind is that if you are not prepared to take care of yourself and your human family members first, you will likely be unable to do much for your animals. I keep emergency kits in my vehicles (car, truck and horse trailer) as well as in the house. My mobile kits include three days worth of non-perishable food and water for one person, a blanket, a spare change of clothes including underwear, close-toed shoes, a basic first aid kit, and a few tools (utility knife, screwdrivers, flashlight with spare batteries, jumper cables, etc.). Yes, these items take up a fair amount of space, but they’ve come in handy in emergencies more than once. The home-based kit is a little more extensive and I keep 2 weeks worth of bottled water, canned and dry goods that I rotate throughout the year. In a pinch, many canned meats and vegetables can be fed to your pets as well.
Secondly, I keep emergency items for every animal in the household. Just as I rotate canned and dry goods for the humans in our home, I do the same for our animals. As a minimum, I keep a three-day supply of food at all times. This rule has come in handy even under mundane circumstances, such as when I was sick and couldn’t make it to the pet store, or when a vehicle was at the mechanic for longer than anticipated. When there is a sale on canned pet foods, which typically have a shelf life of 2-5 years, I will often buy a case. Even if you typically only feed dry kibble, keeping canned pet food on hand is a must. In an emergency, the moisture content of canned pet foods can keep your pet hydrated so you don’t have to dip as deeply into your own emergency water supply.
In addition, I keep easily accessible travel crates, or spare collars and leashes for each animal in the house, depending on what is species-appropriate. Each of these emergency items has a tag with my contact information on it, as well as anything critical to the animal’s well being, such as necessary medications or allergies. It is important to have these items in an easily accessible location in your home, garage, or vehicle.
You will also want to have a pet first-aid kit. While you can purchase pre-made first aid kits for animals, you may choose to put together your own, more complete version. If your pet requires any sort of important medication be sure to ask your veterinarian for an extra refill of that prescription to keep in your first-aid kit. Again, be sure to rotate those medications so that they are not expired when your pet may need them most.
Third, have a detailed, written plan for your family. In the event of a major disaster, having a clear plan is crucial. If a spouse, roommate, or neighbor knows where to find your family’s emergency plan, he or she will be able to determine where to go or what to do under different circumstances if they can’t immediately reach you. For instance, in case of a wildfire requiring evacuation, our county offers temporary stalls for livestock at the fairgrounds, and small animals that cannot be with their owners for whatever reason can be tagged and housed at the county animal shelter until evacuation orders are lifted. I keep a binder that has photos of each of our animals, photocopies of important paperwork (vaccination records, registration papers, microchip numbers, and so on) all sealed in plastic. In the front of the binder is a list of important phone numbers and addresses, such as veterinarians I use, the local animal shelter, and out-of-state family members.
These days, most people rely on their smartphones to remember these kinds of things, but in the case of a natural disaster, fire or flood may damage your technology, and having an old-fashioned “hard copy” is well worth the effort. Perhaps more importantly, if you are caught away from home when disaster strikes, a friend or first responder who goes to pick up or take care of your animals will better be able to help your pets if he or she knows where to take them or who to call.
Bottom line: keep yourselves and your pets safe by staying prepared!
Pro tip: most canned goods that have been properly stored
are safe to consume for 6-12 months past their expiration date.
Check out this article about the shelf life of canned goods for more information!