When Disaster Strikes: How to Prepare to Evacuate with Your Pet

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On June 26, 2012, I watched in horror and disbelief as parts of my beloved city, Colorado Springs, were ravaged by what our mayor would later call “a firestorm of epic proportions.” House after house burst into flames. Panicked residents fled, some with only a few precious belongings.

Although miles away on the other side of town, I couldn’t help but wonder what I would take if we were forced to evacuate.

This was something I had never considered. It’s easy to be complacent here at the foot of the Rockies. Our climate is temperate with many more sunny days than rainy. The nearby mountains protect us from tornadoes. Earthquakes are unheard of. Our biggest weather worry is a blizzard every few years and, of course, no one in his or her right mind evacuates in a blizzard.

Yet here I was, confronted with the unthinkable and realizing how woefully unprepared I was for this type of event.

Luckily, we did not have to evacuate. However, it was a much-needed reminder how important it is to have a plan in place for my pets and me just in case.

I have since learned that experts recommend packing a 72-hour “go-bag” before an emergency occurs. This bag should contain everything you need to survive for three days without assistance. Consider making one for your pet as well and include the following:

1.  Copies of veterinary records – If you need to visit an out-of-town vet, having these records will save time, frustration and possibly your pet’s life. You may also be required to present vaccination records if you have to board your pet while you’re evacuated.

2.  Collar, tag and leash – This should be a separate set from the ones you normally use. In the event of a true emergency, you may have only seconds to put your pet in the car and go. Engrave the tag with your cell phone number and/or the number of a close friend or relative.

3.  Medications – In addition to a 72-hour supply, make a list of your pet’s medications in case they need to be refilled while you’re out of your home.

4.  A crate or carrier – This will help ensure that your pet is safe and secure in an unfamiliar environment.

5.  Food and water – Again, pack enough for at least three days and don’t forget to include bowls.

6.  A photo of your pet – In the confusion of an emergency, frightened pets may flee. A recent, clear photo of your pet will help you in your search.

Finally, plan where you will go once you have evacuated. Will you stay with a friend, check into a hotel or go to an emergency shelter? Will your pet be welcome there or will you need to arrange for boarding? Does your local animal shelter have provisions in place to house displaced pets?

Hopefully, you will never need to put your plan into action. However, spending a few minutes now to prepare – just in case – could make all the difference for both you and your pet should the unthinkable occur.

Amber Carlton is a freelance blogger and business writer specializing in the pet industry. Owned by two dogs and two cats, she is affectionately (?) known as the crazy pet-lady amongst her friends and family. Connect with her at Comma Hound Copywriting, on Twitter or at Mayzie’s Dog Blog.

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