The other day the power went out in the evening at my house and stayed out for many hours. I always consider myself prepared for hurricane season, but was I really? That evening for me was a trial run. I failed. We had flashlights but where were they? I used my new keychain light to try to find them. Because it was in the evening, I needed a light that could light up the room. I have a lantern-type flashlight but it took a lot of effort to locate it. When the electric company said it would be at least midnight before it was fixed (and it was more like 2 a.m.), I had to find a better solution than candles. I needed a bathroom lantern in case my son got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. As many of you know, he has severe autism. He would not be able to be told, “Here’s a flashlight for you to use if you have to get up and the power is still off.” I found my battery-operated candle and put that in his bathroom. I certainly did not want candles burning all night so I put a regular hand-held flashlight up against something so it could light up the room.
I realize that we would have some advanced warning about a hurricane or tropical storm approaching, but if one whipped up from the Gulf of Mexico down near Mexico, we might not have much warning. Anyone who lives in the path of a potential hurricane knows the rush on supplies at the store. During Hurricane Ike, we were without power for 7 days. After that event, we bought a small generator–enough to power a refrigerator and plugs to charge things. My son still has toileting accidents, so we can unplug the refrigerator plug temporarily to plug our washer in to that same generator. The dryer plug would not work, but we can put his things outside. I have found that buying bottled water and storing it for the whole summer makes it taste pretty terrible, especially since we have to store it in the garage. Instead, I wash out milk containers starting in May and keep their lids. As a potential storm approaches I fill all the bottles. If the storm bypasses us, I just use that water on my plants. I also start making ice and lots of it (when the storm might still be in the Atlantic).
We generally focus on ourselves, but as pet owners it is our responsibility to prepare ahead for them. I could use a little work on that.
Let’s go past a hurricane. Let’s say the fire department comes to your door and says you have 30 minutes to get out of the area. Are you prepared? The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters has good tips for you.
1) When developing your family plan, add specific plans for your pets.
2) Assign each family member a pet to locate and care for.
3) Decide where you will go and pick a meeting place for your family in case of separation.
4) Think of whom you can call outside your area. An out-of-state contact can be helpful if communications are down in a disaster zone. Let this contact know your disaster plan and family meeting place should you be evacuated.
5) The best emergency plans include many people and systems that can back each other up. Please include family, friends, neighbors, your veterinarian, and pet sitter.
6) Contact hotels and motels in advance to check which ones accept pets as well as local humane societies and emergency clinics.
7) Build a phone tree. One person phones two people to see if they need help. Those two people each phone two more and so on.
8) Prepare a Disaster Supply Kit.
9) Stay current on vaccines.
10) Make your home safe (or have a safe zone in your home) for your pet in a disaster.
11) Accustom your pets to sudden actions as would be needed in a disaster.
12) Check with your pet sitter to see what their emergency plan is for your pet. Make sure you have your pet disaster kit ready and let your sitter know exactly where it is. Make sure your sitter has all your emergency contacts so in case you are not reachable they can let someone know your pet is safe. The sitter can secure your home and let your neighbors know where your pets will be. Most sitters keep keys to their clients’ homes so if you are not traveling but cannot get to your house due to work or road conditions your pet sitter may be able to secure your pets when you can’t.
Disaster Supply Kit
This is a minimum checklist for your pet should an emergency strike.
1) Prepare a list for each pet. Kits should be easily retrieved and kept in a water tight container.
2) Crate or carrier for each pet large enough to turn around in, and cat carriers large enough for a small litter box.
3) Rotate all foods into use and replace with fresh food every 2 months.
4) Collars and leashes for all pets (including cats) with ID, microchip number, and rabies tags on all collars.
5) Pet first-aid kit including bandaging material, antiseptic ointment, alcohol, gloves, tweezers, muzzle and gauze (You can buy these through the ASPCA if you don’t want to create one for yourself).
6) Vet information and vaccination records and current pictures of each pet.
7) Three-week supply of each pet(s) medications.
8) Sedatives for pets that frighten easily.
9) Disposable litter boxes with extra cat litter.
10) Plastic bags, paper towels and cleaning supplies.
11) Three-week supply of food and drinking water for each pet.
12) Manual can opener and food and water bowls for each pet.
13) Toys or blankets your pet will find familiar.
14) Towels and grooming items.
15) Detailed instructions for animal care and rescue workers.
16) Copy of emergency numbers and family evacuation plan.
17) Flashlight and batteries.
18) A simply plastic tub to carry everything for each pet helps organize in times when it is difficult to think clearly.