As many of us turn our attention to the earthquake victims in Haiti, it tends to make us take stock in those who are important in our own lives, including our pets. Most of us can be very grateful for the security, shelter and loved ones around us. We must never take those things for granted. While a devastation as extreme as that in Haiti is nearly impossible to prepare for, there are things we can do to be better prepared for potential emergencies in our lives.
Zoos across the country plan for possible disasters. There are procedures in place for things such as floods, fires, earthquakes and tornadoes in order to make sure visitors, employees and the animals are as safe and well cared for as possible. Many of those strategies are the same as those you consider for your own home. First, it is important that everyone knows exactly what their responsibility is when an emergency occurs. They should know what they are to do and where they are to go. An evacuation route should be in place and practice drills with the entire family are a good idea. Your kids are used to fire drills at school. They should be accustomed to the same at home. It's always good to have fire extinguishers on-hand and the proper training on how to use them. CPR and first aid training are also quite beneficial. Does everyone know where to go in case of a tornado or where to meet in case of a fire? Do you have emergency phone numbers in prominent areas? Don't just rely on cell phones. Batteries run down and cell phone towers can fail.
What about the furry, feathered or scaly members of the family? Are you prepared to care for them in case of an emergency?
Here are some tips from the ASPCA to consider when preparing for pet emergencies:
* Get a rescue sticker to place in a visible spot. It should alert emergency workers of the type and number of pets you have, as well as the name and number of your veterinarian.
* Arrange for a place to take your pets in case of an evacuation. Do not leave your pets behind. Safe places may include your veterinarian's clinic, a friend or relative, or a pet-friendly hotel. Not all Red Cross facilities will accept pets.
* Designate a pet care-giver. This person should have a set of keys to your home should they need to rescue your pet while you are away or at work.
* Prepare for possible evacuation. Assume you may have to be away for several days. This means having an emergency kit near an exit and making sure your pet's ID tag is current.
* Bring your pet indoors at the first sign of an emergency. Pets can easily become frightened and disoriented in times of stress, which could cause them to flee.
Since we do live in an area where tornadoes occur, it is important to know where the safest places are in your home. You might consider filling a bathtub or sink, so that you will have access to water in a power outage. If there is flooding, go to the highest location in your home, and keep your pets with you at all times.
Prepare a pet travel or emergency kit and make sure everyone knows where it is. Some items to include are similar to those you will need for yourself and your family. Things to consider would be: Pet first-aid kit and guide book; three to seven days worth of canned or dry food; disposable litter trays; litter; liquid dish soap and disinfectant; disposable garbage bags for cleanup; feeding dishes; extra leash; photocopies of medical records and a two-week supply of medicine; seven days worth of bottled water; a pet carrier; flashlight; blanket; recent photos of your pet(s) in case you need to make "lost" posters; toys.
Don't forget about the special needs of animals like birds, reptiles and small pets. Be sure to have the necessary supplies with you to properly care for them.
While we don't like to think of these things, with a little advanced planning and practice, all members of your family can be as safe as possible in case of an emergency.w