From extreme weather to power outages, the impact of emergency situations is hard to predict. You may know what to do and where to go if you hear a warning siren—but what should you do with your pets? We got some tips from experts Dr. Deborah Mandell, pet safety advisor for the American Red Cross, and Wanda Merling, senior manager of disaster response for the Humane Society of the United States. Here’s some advice on how to ensure your four-legged family members stay safe during an emergency.
Make A Pet Emergency Plan
“Knowing what to do goes a long way if something happens,” says Dr. Mandell. “Because you’re not going to think about all those things on the spur of the moment.”
- If you must wait out severe weather at home, identify a safe area of your home where you can all stay together, such as your basement, storm shelter or an interior room on the lowest level without windows. For flash floods, it would be a place on a higher level. Ensure your safe place is animal-friendly, removing tools or toxins and blocking off nooks where scaredy cats may hide. Consult the American Red Cross’s Disaster and Safety Library for detailed tips on preparing your space for a range of disasters.
- Map out your exit from both the house and wider area. “An escape plan is exiting your house in case of a fire or gas leak,” says Dr. Mandell. “Evacuation routes are for when you will be leaving your home and neighborhood for a flood, hurricane or wild fire. You’ll want to practice so you know which route to take.”
- Practice escape plans with your pets. “It changes a lot when you include them,” says Dr. Mandell. “Who is going to get the pet? What room does she or he sleep in? Can the person carry the pet or carrier down a second-floor ladder? It just adds another dimension to the evacuation plan.”
- Can’t get home? Arrange a buddy system as a backup. “Make sure a neighbor or friend has a key to your house,” advises Merling. “Practice the plan together, and ensure your animals are familiar with that person.”
Assemble A Pet Emergency Kit
Store your pet’s essential supplies in sturdy, portable containers that you can easily grab and go. Keep a pet carrier handy, to facilitate transporting pets to safety. “If you bring supplies, there’s a better chance that everything will go smoothly,” says Dr. Mandell.
Know A Safe Place To Take Your Pets
Remember the most important rule: If you must evacuate, take your pets. Pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost or killed. “If it’s not safe for you, it’s not safe for them,” says Dr. Mandell. And evacuate early; leaving before conditions become severe will keep everyone safer and make the process less stressful.
Emergency shelters can’t accept pets for health reasons (service animals excluded). Preparing a list of pet-friendly refuges can be a lifesaver during an evacuation.
“Talk to family and friends to make certain your pets are welcome,” says Merling. “Know of pet-friendly hotels in the area.” Check with hotels about pet policies with regards to number, size and species, and if restrictions are waived during emergencies. On your list, include boarding facilities, animal shelters and veterinarians who can house animals.
Prep Your Pets
An emergency is stressful for everyone, your pets included. Take these steps to avoid further problems:
- Get pets vaccinated: “Otherwise, pet shelters won’t accept them,” says Dr. Mandell.
- Tag and microchip ’em: “This way, in the event you are separated, you can positively identify your pet,” says Merling.
Download The App
Still scrambling? Use the American Red Cross’s free Pet First Aid App to search for pet-friendly hotels, emergency pet-care facilities or veterinarians.
GEICO knows all members of your family are important, both animal and human. If you’re a dog or cat owner, we can help get you a pet insurance plan through the GEICO Insurance Agency to keep your furry friend protected 24/7.
And whatever disaster may come, be prepared with help and resources at your fingertips. Read our 10 Apps, Twitter Feeds and Bookmarks to Use in an Emergency article to learn more.
By Lisa Jackson
Originally published February 2016.