The first time, the thoughts run through your head so fast and furious your feel like you are running a race. And then when the fire department comes and tells you: “You are being evacuated. You must leave the area within the next hour.” You worry about whether or not you got everything important to you. We (family and friends) learned so much from the first episode that when this second fire came then the family felt like they had a good game plan of evacuation if need be. And for the second time my family was under orders of evacuation.
Thankfully, I can say no lives were lost with my family on either fire. But both fires have made it clear how unprepared most of us are for emergencies. I don’t want you to fall into the position of being unprepared! And because I don’t want you to experience what my family did and am urging you to devise an emergency plan for your household.
When you are a pet parent then not only do you consider yourself, you consider all your other family members including your pets. Yes, that can include horses, goats, birds and not just our cats and dogs.
Because my experience has been of fire I am going to use it as an example. Please keep in mind when you establish your own game plan that plan can be adopted to any emergency that evacuation is necessary. And since this blog’s focal point is pets that will be my focus.
Things to think about:
Do you have back up records? If not are your pet’s health records easy to access?
Are your pets comfortable with traveling in a car?
Are your pets trained for a kennel, trailer or other form of contained transportation?
Are your pets trained to come to you at anytime?
Do you have travel bags for each of your pets?
Do you have a family/friend that can take your pets in temporarily?
Let’s look at each of the questions individually and along the way I will give you tips that you can use in your action plan.
- Do you have back up records or are your pet’s health records easy to access? If you are like most people you have important papers all over the house and when you need the information you have to find it and that can take a lot more time then you have available. Here is a option: When your pet first comes to your home start a file and maintain that file in a place you can go to it quickly and easily. It can be as simple as an manila file folder or as detailed as an accordion file (Like the one’s accountant use to use. You can still find them at office supply stores.) Label it with your pet’s name and date of birth. Inside you can keep all of the official adoption papers, registration papers, microchip information, Veterinarians receipts, adorable pictures, maybe a baby tooth. And if you are like me then a detailed health record. Oh, I know I am a bit over the top but, I can’t help myself; so may years as a Registered Veterinary Technician taught me to document everything. Each of my pets has their own file, with everything I suggested plus a health record where I record how they responded to their vaccines, how they responded to the introduction of a new person, how they respond to traveling. Basically I will document everything I think might be significant and I have to tell you, that documentation has been very important more than once. But vital as my pets get older. I can take my file in on the visit to the Veterinarian and show the documentation as to when the first observance was with a bump or swollen eye.
- Are your pets comfortable with traveling in a car? People like to think their dog is good in the car, but what about your cat, bird, tortoise or horse. Have your pets been kennel/crate trained? Why not? Please don’t tell me you can’t kennel train a cat, because it is simply not true. Kennel training or trailering a horse is all about consistency. You introduce the kennel to the animal and lead them into it and then reward them for being in it. Slowly you build up the time an animal is in a kennel. I caught you thinking a kennel is mean and you would never put your dog in a cage. Well let me please present to you a different way of looking at this. A kennel is their private traveling bedroom. In California a dog must be cross tethered, in a kennel, behind a barrier or restrained with a seat belt. It is there for the safety of the driver, all other vehicle occupants and the safety of the pet. Let’s get back on focus, emergency plans not the training aspects.
- Are your pets trained for a kennel, trailer or other form of contained transportation? This is so critical. And I will continue with stressing the importance of kennels. When used properly, kennels are a safe zone for your pet. A place of security and their private bed room. Just think, how calm is a pet when they are accustom to a kennel and you swoop in and put them in a kennel for transport to the real safe zone versus not being accustom to a kennel except to go to the Vet and you swoop in and put them in their kennel. That is of course if you can find them because they just saw the kennel come out and that means going to the Vet and they have “disappeared” magically. Now you are in a panic because you can’t find your kitty on top of the panic of attempting to get all the other important stuff out of your home.
- Are your pets trained to come to you at anytime? Consistency is critical. I have had people tell me you cannot train a cat to come. Really? Well your kitty sure has figured out how to tell time because they know when it is dinner time. Again consistency is critical, reward your kitty when they come to you. Train with a clicker. Click, reward, click while they are eating the reward. When you first start clicker training carry small treats in your pocket and take every opportunity you can to click and reward. When you do get them clicker trained, use it daily. This way when you do need them to come to you grab your clicker and they will show up for you.
- Do you have travel bags for each of your pets? This includes back up medication, food, collar etc. and a brief medical history. Again it should be easily available and you should not have to “dig” it out. Every show pet I have ever met has a show bag and it can easily double as an emergency get away bag.
- Do you have a family/friend that can take your pets in temporarily? I hope you never face an emergency evacuation, but be prepared. Is there a person that your pets can go to temporarily? Think about it, if you are facing an emergency wouldn’t it be nice that your pets are well cared for. It will take some of your worries away and make your life easier and allow you the time and energy to handle other pressing issues.
I may be an animal communicator but that will not make difference to a panicking pet! You know how the military says they rely on training? Well this is when you want your pets to rely on training and YOU. The more prepared you are the easier you can handle the crisis. Devise your plan, write it down as a check list, try it out. How long will it take you to get everyone in the car along with all the necessary items? Adjust your plan, try it again. Do this until you are comfortable and as a routine follow your plan at least annually so everyone has the exposure and practice.
As a side note: After helping my older parents with their first evacuation and aftermath, I came home and took pictures of every room in my home. I took pictures of every drawer open, pictures of every closet and it’s contents, pictures of every item hanging on the walls, pictures of every open cabinet. You get my point, take pictures of everything including your cleaning supplies. My parents lost one of their homes and attempting to remember everything in that home for the insurance company is truly difficult. They have been collecting items all of their adult lives and some items cannot ever be replaced, like the pictures of their children growing up or the homemade quilts from generations past. So take pictures! And now with our smart phones, there is no reason or excuse for you to not have those pictures in multiple places. One backup can be on a thumb drive and that thumb drive can be part of your emergency get away bag.
From my heart, I hope you never ever ever face an emergency evacuation. But my heart sinks and thinking you might and you are not prepared. Be a great pet parent and be prepared.