Preparing for Disasters

by Kimberly Button

The need for disaster preparedness is always clear after witnessing the catastrophic and life-changing effects of severe weather, such as Hurricane Sandy. Preparing for the worst isn’t necessarily something that we want to think of, yet a good plan can mean the difference between life and death. A few moments are all it takes to put together a survival kit for weather-related disasters for your entire family, including your Lab.

 

Your Specific Needs

The severe weather that you need to prepare for is usually dependent on where you live. Floridians are used to bracing for hurricanes and the excessive heat and humidity that follows, while northerners experience ice storms and blizzards. Though tornadoes, flooding, tropical storms, and heavy snow used to be relegated to certain geographical boundaries, recent events have shown that severe weather can happen to anyone, anywhere. It’s important, if possible, to be prepared for all worst case scenarios.

If tornadoes are more of a threat to you and your Lab, be sure to know which room in the house is the best to take shelter and store your emergency supplies there. If flooding is common, find the highest point in your house where you can take shelter. Identifying these safe places before severe weather strikes can ease your mind somewhat in preparing for a disaster.

Pack a Kit

Creating a survival kit is mandatory for any disaster preparedness. This kit of supplies can be stored in a plastic storage container, tote bag, waterproof trash bag, or anything that is sturdy, easily portable, and resistant to moisture. Keep it in a place where you will remember it and can quickly access it, such as a spare closet or in the basement. Don’t assume that you will have time to go out to the store to buy supplies before a severe weather event. Often there is no warning.

Conventional wisdom says to have enough supplies to last at least three days until relief efforts can reach you. After major catastrophes over the past few years, though, it’s clear that three days of supplies might not be enough. Those affected by severe weather often state that relief agencies just don’t arrive quickly, sometimes up to one to two weeks after the event.

When preparing an emergency kit, include enough supplies to last at least a week, even longer if you have the room necessary to store the items. You’ll need different items than your pets, but what should you pack specifically for your Lab in an emergency kit? Be sure to include:

  • water
  • food (rotate the food often so that it doesn’t go past the expiration date)
  • a can opener (if using canned foods)
  • food and water bowls
  • medications (be sure to rotate medications before the expiration date)
  • medical and vaccination records kept in a waterproof container
  • pet first aid supplies
  • a current photo of your pet, preferably one showing you, too, in order to verify ownership if needed
  • leash or harness
  • toys
  • blankets, for bedding and warmth in cold weather
  • name and number of your veterinarian
Importance of Identification

Make sure that your Lab wears a collar with identification and more than one contact phone number displayed. Having your pet microchipped is also a good idea for disaster preparedness. You may be away from home when severe weather hits, and if your Lab gets loose, rescuers must be able to reunite you with your Lab.

Finding Shelter

You may be able to stay in your home during severe weather. Or conditions may mandate that you evacuate. Every situation will be different, but you must be prepared for all possibilities.

If you choose to stay in your home, be sure to have a weather radio available with plenty of batteries so that you can monitor weather conditions and warnings. Bring your Lab indoors. If your safety is in danger, get out of the house and also bring your dog. There is no instance where it is wise to leave your Lab behind if you are fleeing for your own safety.

After Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, the importance of pet-friendly shelters was thrust into the spotlight as many people stayed behind because they did not want to leave their pets. In fact, Congress passed the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act (known as the PETS Act) in 2006 in wake of the tragedy. The PETS Act requires state and local emergency preparedness operational plans to address how they will handle pets and service animals in a disaster.

ID your LabTo find a pet-friendly shelter, contact your county emergency management office. You will want to keep contact information in your emergency kit so that you can easily access it. Links to state agencies can be found on the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) website. You can also talk to your veterinarian or local animal shelter for information they might have on options during an emergency.

It is also a good idea to know which hotels in your area are pet-friendly, too. Websites such as www.petfriendlytravel.com are good starting points, but you will want to investigate all of your options, including chain hotels and bed and breakfasts. Keeping a list in your emergency kit is a great idea if your home is uninhabitable, but you are able to travel to a nearby destination that has not been severely affected.

Helping Hands

Rescue personnel need to know about your pets, too. Display a notification on your home’s window, such as the ASPCA’s free Pet Safety Pack or a decal that you buy at a pet store, so that emergency responders know whether to look for pets. If you do evacuate before a disaster, write “EVACUATED” across the decal so that emergency responders don’t spend extra time searching for pets.

Kimberly Button is a freelance journalist, author of The Everything Guide to a Healthy Home, and a green living TV correspondent in Orlando, Florida. Visit www.kimbutton.com for more of her work.
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