I am the first to admit I am not a Disaster Relief specialist of any kind. I have, however, witnessed disaster a few times. In December 1989 I visited San Francisco 2 months after a devastating earthquake took its toll. In October 2011 I saw the destructive flooding and mudslides that heavy rain storms caused while traveling with World Vets in Guatemala. Both of these tragedies resulted in loss of life and displacement of many people and animals from their homes.
Most recently, there was a call out to Emergency Social Services volunteers right here in Vancouver Canada. Rising river waters threatened to displace many and destroy homes. Fortunately the water levels receded and crisis was averted. Vancouver is also near a faultline that is due to cause an Earthquake at any time. Last month, when questioning my house insurance cost increase the Insurer blamed the looming earthquake. The reality finally settled in: I am not prepared and this could really happen!
My home consists of 4 people, 1 dog, 2 cats, and a rabbit. No small feat to prepare for us all. I decided to start with what I know best: my animals. Yes, I know it is all backwards but I figure we as humans are resourceful and will figure something out in the meantime, while my pets don’t have that option. Responsibly I must recommend that you do the reverse and prep for yourself first.
I went online and found several useful website including:
ASPCA Disaster Preparedness
City of Vancouver Pet Emergency Resources
The Humane Society of the United States Disaster Plan for Pets
Canadian Disaster Animal Response Team
I won’t share with you every item these web sites suggest packing; I am sure you will want to review the sites yourselves. You can see in my photo many of the items I included anyway (note I did not include my labelled animal crates in the photo).
I will tell you that there were a few items that I would never have thought of. For example:
• Cat litter and an empty litter tray – Of course, what was I thinking? I had only thought about food and water.
• Flashlight and extra batteries – We have these in the house but if we couldn’t get inside and there was no power these would come in handy.
• Papertowel, dish soap, hand soap – Cleaners are important. Especially when there may be no power nor running water.
• Food: my pets eat raw food, tricky for a disaster kit. I chose foods that were similar proteins to what they are used to in order to try to prevent stomach upset. Don’t forget a can opener!
• Blank ID tags – your pets may have to relocate to stay with someone else or in a City Disaster shelter. Blank ID tags will allow you to fill out their appropriate temporary contact information.
• Include photos of each of your animals – a few copies of each pet so you don’t give away your only one if you lose your pet.
• Label your animal crates with your pet’s names and their descriptions
A few things to consider when designing your own kit:
• Rotate food, medication, and water frequently to prevent spoilage. This is easy to do! For example, when you run out of pet food go buy some but instead of using it, use what is in your Disaster kit and put the new items inside.
• Plan for longer periods without food/water/electricity versus shorter…better to have too much food then too little.
• Leave the kit in a safe place outside of your home (like your garage), or if that is not possible leave it somewhere you can easily grab it when exiting.
• Tell people what you are doing, they may have creative ideas of how to secure supplies, or you may just be the inspiration they need to get their own kit going.
I have to admit, it took two pet supply stores, an outdoor store, and a grocery store to complete my kit, but overall it was relatively painless to find all of the items. When packed up, the kit also doesn’t take up as much space as I had anticipated and it now resides in my garage. My pet disaster kit will hopefully never need to be used, but I feel much better having a “better safe then sorry” attitude.
My future plans now that my pets are cared for? Preparing for the humans in my household…
Lisa Wagner is the Operations Director of Walks ‘N’ Wags Pet First Aid, International provider of Pet First Aid training for cats and dogs. Learn more about Walks ‘N’ Wags at www.walksnwags.com or on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Walks-N-Wags-Pet-First-Aid/142710559130541?ref=ts