The recent devastation in OK has brought to mind one of my ongoing nightmares as a dog mom – natural disasters and emergencies and pets and safety and omg what am I going to do? Instead of just wringing my hands and twitching in panic, however, I’ve decided to actually make a Plan. A Fire Escape Plan with Pets.*
*many of these tips work for other evacuation scenarios (hurricanes, tornados, etc). Fire is just one with the least amount of reaction time available.
- Have a plan!
- A lot will depend on your particular home and family – people and pets. 1 human to 6 cats, 4 humans to 2 dogs, single-story home or 5th floor walk-up?
- Micro-chip your pets ASAP. There are often pet fairs with discounted chipping.
- Figure out who grabs whom, and how (pillowcase, carrier/crate, leash)
- Identify your pets favorite hiding place.
- Train your pet in evacuation drills. Perhaps train to respond to the sound of the smoke alarm? (for hurricanes and tornado, train to go to the safe space)
- Research ahead of time: shelters, vets, boarding, hotels/motels that accommodate pets
- Determine a route and backup route
- Identify a place for your pet(s) to stay if your home is unlivable. Family and friends are best, but a place to board if you must
- Choose temporary and/or permanent caregivers
- Share your contact info and key with trustworthy neighbors, in case of an emergency when you are away from home
- One of the biggest causes of home fires by pets are cats on the kitchen counter (the other biggie is candles getting knocked over). Cats that jump up on the counter can accidentally turn on the oven or stove. Pulling off the knobs or covering them could prevent an accidental fire
- Pet stickers on doors and windows. Keep up to date! Replace when they begin to fade, date to ensure firefighters now they are still relevant. If you evacuate, write EVACUATED across the sticker, so emergency workers don’t waste time.
- Consider installing a smoke alarm at the very least, and a fire/burglar alarm system if you can afford it.
- KnoxBox – purchased by end user, secured by fire dept, pricey but secure
- Keep needed carriers, leashes, food, drinking water, bowls, litter boxes, pee pads, garbage and poo bags, medicines, first aid kits, medical and vaccination records (in a waterproof container), current photos of pets, Comfort Zone or the like for evacuations, in easily accessible locations. Bags with lots of reflective trim can help you find the bag, and others find YOU in the dark.
- Pet beds and toys, if easily transportable
- Additional clothes, blankets or towels, if you’re in a location that gets cold
- Information on feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavior problems, and the name and number of your veterinarian in case you have to foster or board your pets.
- Evacuation supplies the humans, as well.
- Human emergency kit prep: http://www.redcross.org/prepare/location/home-family/get-kit
- Restrain, crate or collar and leash pet(s), grab the closest ER supply bag and get out! (obviously, getting to a safe room for things like hurricanes and tornados)
- If you can’t find your pet(s), leave a door open so they can escape
- DO NOT go back into the fire
- Check immediately for burns, smoke inhalation, etc.
- Get to the vet as soon as possible for a full health check-up
- Get thee to a safe haven
There are many kinds of disasters, differing both in the scope of the destruction they can wreak and how sudden or unexpected they may be. A hurricane can be prepared for (to a degree), but you don’t get time to pack with a fire. An effective plan needs to cover all of the eventualities.
Example Family 1:
Home: Single family house, one story
Pets: 1 small dog
Special concerns: Pet is senior, in poor health, will need gentle treatment
Example Family 2:
Home: 2nd floor apartment
Pets: 1 small dog, 1 medium dog, 2 cats
Special concerns: No elevator, busy street
What will you do in each of these scenarios:
No warning, at home (eg. fire)
No warning, not at home (eg. fire)
Warning, at home (eg. hurricane, tornado, flood)
Warning, not at home
Where will you stay?
Will you have to board your pets?
Do you have someone to take the pets if you cannot?
We recently had to evacuate our house at 3 in the morning due to a carbon monoxide leak. When we evacuated our cat was put into a crate and moved out to our car, the two dogs were put on leashes and our oldest daughter (16) was put in charge of them.