Who would have thought we’d be talking about fire emergency preparedness in July? But between the drought and our high temperatures, we are definitely having an early fire season. In fact, the River Fire which has already consumed over 9,500 acres shows that the season has begun in earnest. Hopefully you are already prepared to evacuate if necessary, but if not, here is your reminder call!
When pulling together your lists and plans remember that packing for an evacuation is completely different than gathering supplies for an earthquake or other emergency that will involve sheltering in place until it’s safe to leave the area. With fire you are fleeing and usually don’t have a lot of warning. Actually heeding evacuation warnings rather than waiting for the actual order will help save lives and clear the roads as the situation gets more urgent. You should have at least two lists prepared – your 10 minutes or less, what should you grab list; and a more comprehensive one if you have the luxury of an hour or more to organize an evacuation. Obviously your pets, and other family members are the highest priority to get out safely.
First things first – have a plan. Where can you go with your pets? Make deals with your friends that they can stay with you if you can stay with them in an emergency. Have more than one place in mind and pick people far away. Having places in mind out of the county is helpful – chances are the fire will not be spreading that far. You might also call a few hotels to know which are pet-friendly and have their numbers on your emergency list.
The absolutely most important thing you can do to safeguard your pets is to have them microchipped. In every emergency situation there are pets that escape or are impossible to catch and being able to reunite them afterwards is dependent on this important form of ID. After the last fires here when cats were brought in with burned and smoke covered fur they were pretty much unrecognizable. Many animals were able to be reunited with their families even months afterwards thanks to a microchip. We offer this simple form of permanent identification FREE to residents of Rohnert Park and Cotati and for just $10 to everyone else. Call us at 584-1582 to set up an appointment today!
If you are setting up a grab and go bag for your pets, have it packed with a few days’ worth of food, feeding and water bowls, medications, litter pan, litter and scoop, and a leash for your dog. I wouldn’t worry about water or pack huge bags of litter or food since once outside the fire zone, businesses will be operating as usual. You just need enough stuff to both make it through a day or two and to help make your pet comfortable with things that smell familiar. Also very important, is to be sure to have good quality photos of each pet including a clear head shot and a side view on your cell phone just in case you need to create a lost pet flyer or prove ownership. And be sure to put your veterinarian in your contacts list.
I just read a great tip on Facebook to get your pets in their crates in the car first so you can leave the doors open and not have to worry about your dog or cat bolting fearfully out of your car or house as you continue to pack. Crates are invaluable and open up more options to you and your fur-kids. More hotels accept pets if they know they are safely confined and it makes staying in an evacuation center much safer too. What do you need besides the actual animals?
Medications are very important and you also want to take pictures of all the labels so that you can easily get refills if you are going to be away for any period of time. Remember that if your veterinary clinic is also affected by the fire you may not have access to their records.
For cats you want to have crates set up and ready to quickly contain your frightened kitty. Be sure they are clearly labeled with your cell number. Small carriers are nice for quick trips to the vet but for evacuations you might want a bigger crate that will fit a small litterbox in case your cat needs to live in it for a couple days. Put in a towel or blanket that your cat has slept on so it smells familiar. In a total panic situation know that a pillowcase can work quite well to safely contain a cat. Just put the cat in the pillowcase and tie shut.
We all hope that we never need to use the kits we set up but boy will you regret it if you are not prepared. Planning, and actually running through a drill with your family, is key to a smooth evacuation. Don’t wait until a fire is lapping at your door! Prepare today.
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at email@example.com.