Many years ago, my humans and Jack and Emma endured the brunt of hurricane Wilma. They experienced high winds, and what they suspected was a tornado behind their apartment. Once the storm had passed, my humans had no power and nowhere to go. Thankfully, they were close enough to my grandparents and were able pack up and stay with them for a short period of time. Ultimately, the power outage lasted so long, that my humans had to make other arrangements. Fortunately, their vet's office was open and able to board Jack and Emma in a safe location while my humans recovered from the storm. Ever since that frightening experience my humans - and our entire family - prepares as soon as possible. Here are some of our tried and true tips:
1. Make sure that you know where the closest pet-friendly shelter is in case you must evacuate your home. If you are not located near a pet-friendly shelter, or if you have more pets than the shelter will allow, make sure you have a set plan as to where you will go and how you will get there if a natural disaster strikes. Nothing is more stressful than loading your pets in a hurry and not knowing where you can go. Planning ahead will reduce your stress, and help you think more clearly and act more quickly during an emergency. Check out this great article by Pet Friendly Travel for more information about finding a pet-friendly shelter
2. Your pets need to eat, too, so make sure that you have enough pet food to last at least one week. Our rule of thumb is to buy food for the month. We buy really big bags of dry food and store them in air tight containers. We also buy wet food by the pallet (Mimi is a little finicky when it comes to eating). Keep in mind that you might not have power. If you have a dog like Mimi that prefers wet food, make sure that you have something that your dog will eat that does not need to be refrigerated.
3. Water is an absolute necessity for humans, as well as their pets. PLEASE please please purchase enough drinking (purified) water for all of the humans AND animals in your household. We make sure to have at least 1-2 gallons per animal on hand during a storm or other natural disaster. This is vital to your pet's health and survival. If the power is out, and the weather is hot, your pet may need more water than (s)he normally drinks. Please take this into consideration and make sure to have plenty of clean water available.
4. A secure leash and collar are also important. In the event that you need to leave your home, it is vital that your have a leash and collar that are relatively new and secure in order to prevent your dog from breaking loose. There could be downed trees and/or power lines after a storm, and the last thing you want is your precious pet getting caught in a dangerous situation. Keep your pet secure and have a sturdy leash and collar available.
5. Similar to number four, make sure that you have a size-appropriate crate. I understand that not all families use crates, and that is OK. But in the event of an emergency, having a crate is necessary. If you need to evacuate, having your pets in a crate will make transporting them easier - and safer. It is also easier to bring your pet into your "safe room" (i.e. a closet with no windows) if they are crated. I cannot imagine trying to round up three dogs, two kids, and two adults into our safe room while a storm blows through the house. Also, pets tend to get very nervous during storms and sometimes a crate helps to comfort your pet and keeps them safe. Keep in mind that you may also be required to have a crate at whichever shelter or hotel you evacuate to.
These tips are just the "tip" (see what I did there?) of the iceberg; batteries, flashlights, and all of the other "human" emergency preparations are important for pets, too. The moral of the story is plan ahead to ensure that all family members - pets included - are safe during a natural disaster.