I found it hard to believe that after being away for three weeks I came back to find the same fires that were burning when I left were still not contained! These disasters, and the current hurricane threat on the East Coast, are becoming more and more common. Frightening, no? Are you ready? Are your pets covered in your emergency plans? If the fire here last year wasn’t a wake up call, then consider this one! Get prepared!
There are actually two different kinds of emergencies and although they have some common tenants, they are actually very different. In California, until recently, we mostly focused on earthquakes as the most likely emergency we would face. In that case, we are told, we need to be prepared to survive for three to five days on our own before help will arrive. That means we need to pack away food and water, basic toiletries and clothing and first aid materials. Including food, litter and other necessities for all your pets. Assume no electricity or phones and road closures so you have to stay in place.
The second type of emergency is something like the fires where you grab and go. The whole world is not burning (although it may seem all of California is in flames at times) so as soon as you are out of the area you will be able to buy groceries and clothing. Then what you need to grab from your home – besides your family and pets – are your valuables and irreplaceable items like photos. It was interesting to hear about some of the things people took with them during the fires last year. People packed their cars with toilet paper and water and lost precious pictures and family heirlooms.
The part that’s the same for any kind of emergency is to have a plan on how to catch and transport your pets. Do you have cat carriers handy? Is your dog’s leash always in the same place so it’s easy to grab? Do you have pictures of your pets in case they disappear? Are they microchipped so they will be easy to identify? What are you waiting for? Microchips are free for Rohnert Park and Cotati residents at the shelter! Do you have a list of any medications your pets are on? A great idea I recently heard was to take a picture of the bottle of all medications so you can show to a veterinarian if you need to evacuate and get a refill. Take a picture of their vaccination records too so you can show proof if needed; then you are not trying to remember to grab a file and shuffling through papers.
Do you have a bag packed with some of your pets’ food and litter if you need to grab and go? Do you know where you would go that will accept pets? More and more emergency shelters are allowing pets in with their owners if they are pet and people friendly but you might want to have some back-up options ready. And pick someone that lives out of the immediate area that can be your central contact in case you and other family members get separated. Make sure that person’s contact information is programmed into everyone’s phone.
There are some great resources for lists and suggestions on what to have in your emergency kits for pets. Instead of listing those items here, I’ll just refer you to these websites: www.redrover.org/resource/pet-disaster-preparedness and www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/pet-disaster-preparedness and www.humanesociety.org/issues/animal_rescue/tips/pet_disaster_preparedness_kit. What I didn’t realize when I first set-up my emergency containers is that’s not the end of the work. You can’t just pack it once and forget about them. The food and water you store away must be continuously rotated or when you need it years later you will be sadly disappointed that everything is spoiled. Being prepared for emergencies is a continuous process. Pick a date or day of the month that you will focus on this important task. As a family do a drill and check your supplies. Better to be ready and not ever need it than the opposite, right?
“Get Them Back Home” Campaign – Every lost pet should have a way to get back home. FREE pet ID tag and a back-up microchip are available to all residents of Rohnert Park and Cotati. No appointment necessary, just come by the shelter during our regular open hours: Wed. 1-6:30; Thurs.-Fri.-Sat. 1-5:30; Sun. 1-4:30.
Fix-it Clinics – Free spay and neuters for cats; and $60 dog surgeries (up to 80 lbs.) for low-income Rohnert Park and Cotati residents. Call 588-3531 for an appointment.
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.