Having a plan in case of a home emergency or natural disaster is a good idea, but how many plans include the family pet?
The American Red Cross stresses the importance of considering pets in emergency preparedness, said Tammy Lee, executive director of the Northwest Iowa American Red Cross.
“We work with partner agencies that specialize in caring for pets, so we will partner with the humane society or local animal shelters that have the equipment to properly care for pets,” she said.
Not only does the Red Cross offer tips on caring for pets in emergencies, but pets are also included in exercises designed for disaster preparedness.
“It’s becoming very common, the way we can provide for special needs of pets but also make sure the needs of the people are met,” Lee said.
Taking an abundance of pet photos, a habit of many pet lovers, turns out to be a benefit if the pet happens to escape during an emergency situation.
“Having a current photo is important to being able to find that pet,” Lee said. “That way rescue workers know exactly what they are looking for.”
The best thing that pet owners can do to prepare for that kind of situation is to keep pets microchipped and to have an identification tag on them at all times.
“Make sure the pet is identifiable so that way if they are separated they are more easily reunited,” said Lee. “You hear stories about pets that are a long distance away that have found their way home, but that definitely isn’t always the case.”
Preparing an emergency kit complete with plenty of pet supplies is important in case it’s not possible to leave the home for a while or, on the other hand, if a quick evacuation is required.
“Remember special dietary needs, water, some treats and toys, things like that,” Lee said, about things to pack in an emergency kit. “It’s also about making sure that you have the supplies you need if you need to leave quickly.”
Leashes for dogs and small carriers for cats are also good to have on hand in case it's necessary to control or confine the pet.
Keep a list of pet-friendly hotels with emergency phone numbers in case evacuation is necessary.
As far as location of the emergency kit, keep it somewhere handy that can easily be grabbed in a stressful situation.
“It’s a good idea to keep supplies in an area where you would take shelter and in something can you quickly take with you,” Lee said.
Bear in mind any specific medical issues that a pet might have when packing an emergency kit, she added.
“If you have a pet with medical issues, make sure you have a good stock of their supplies ready to go at a moment’s notice.”