Emergency PETparedness Boston MA
W. Newton, MA
by Colleen Paige
When wildfires rage across dry terrain, quick and safe pet evacuations are critical. Seconds count in protecting your family and pets. Don’t wait for the evacuation notice from authorities. If you are within a 30 minute drive from the fire area, plan now. Besides being an Animal Behaviorist, I’m a former firefighter and paramedic from Los Angeles, so believe me when I say “it’s better to be safe, than sorry.” I’ve seen how fast fire moves and the devastation it leaves in its wake.
Every family should have an emergency preparedness plan that includes their pets. As much as we love our beloved furry kids, they can often be overlooked when planning for emergencies. It’s important to have at least five days of food and water for your pet, including emergency supplies such as a pet first aid kit and a 30 day supply of any medication your pet is taking. It may not be too difficult for you to find food and water for your pet, but if you run out of necessary medication, they could be at risk for worsened illness if area animal hospitals are still closed or worse yet – burned to the ground.
A very helpful item to have is a plastic crate. This helps to secure your pet and keep them calm, as well as others, safe. Most dogs and cats like to den and prefer to have a small dark space to rest in, especially when stressed, injured, ill or frightened. They’re very sensitive when it comes to the unknown and a scared or injured cat or dog is likely to act in a manner which is different than usual. Dogs and cats that otherwise are sweet and gentle, may become aggressive and bite, due to pain, fear and confusion. So containing your pet in a crate may help to prevent children and others from getting bitten. If you can’t afford a crate ($40-$100) a muzzle for your dog ($15-$25) can also be helpful if you notice him growling or acting strangely.
In the colder months, make sure you have plenty of warm blankets for your pet. Emergency heat packs can also be very useful for things such as, to keep small dogs and cats warm and to help prevent heat loss and shock if they are injured. In both of those cases you would want to place the heat packs on the outside of a blanket around your pets’ body. If the weather is warm, to avoid heat exhaustion, emergency cold packs placed on the blanket around your pet and a battery operated fan placed in front of a cold pack to blow in their direction will help greatly. Both hot and cold packs can be found at most surplus stores and internet sites carrying medical supplies.
Lastly, make sure you have a sticker on your front window that displays information regarding what types of pets you have at home, so that emergency rescue crews will be aware to search for your pets even if you aren’t home. Work out a plan with your neighbors or friends to go to your home in the event of a disaster so that you are assured someone will eventually rescue them. It’s wise to have several people on this list as to increase the chances that someone you have designated can make their way to your home.
If you’re forced to evacuate, you’ll have little to no time to prepare anything. It only takes a small amount of time to prep the pets and pack the car. Fire moves very quickly and wind speeds and gusts are not always predicted accurately by the weather service. Many fires that are reported “contained” can whip up again and change direction overnight. Often hurricanes are down graded and pick up speed over night and change direction as well. People who are sleeping and not keeping track of the fire or pending storm can end up with the worst scenario. They go to bed feeling safe and awaken, only to discover they have literally minutes or only seconds to get the pets out safely, let alone - themselves.
The following information will help to keep you and your pets out of harm’s way.
Pack the following essential pet items and store in vehicle trunk:
- 5-15 Gallons of bottled water depending on size of pet (30 Gallons for horses and larger animals)
- Dry Pet Food – enough for at least five days but preferably, two weeks
- Litter box and litter
- Blankets (in case of an injury, you can cover your dog to prevent shock or keep safe from embers)
- Disposable bags for waste
- Leash and collar
- Potty Pads
- Extra tag on collar with alternate emergency contact in case you become ill
- Pet bed and toys for comfort
- Pet wipes or baby wipes - (used to wipe ash and soot from fur)
- Medical care items, such as gauze, bandages, scissors, hydrogen peroxide and antibiotic ointment to treat burns, cuts or wounds
- A supply of your pet’s prescribed medication(s)
If you must vacate with a dog or cat-
Just prior to fleeing from home, attempt to wet your pets’ fur and cover him or her with a wet towel to prevent flying embers from burning his fur and paws on the way out of the house. Also, be sure to hose down the ground from house to car to further protect exposed paws.
If you must vacate with a horse or farm animal-
Hose down the animal to prevent burns due to flying embers. Cover the animals’ eyes with blinkers and lead into trailer. Make sure to load in a secure area, keeping all corral gates and fences closed to prevent the animal from fear bolting and running off.
The aftermath of any disaster is far reaching and it takes many months for people, pets and wildlife to begin to recover from the physical and emotional trauma of it. Preparation and planning can make the critical difference in protecting loved ones and saving lives.
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