The last two hurricane seasons have seen massive, unprecedented storms that took millions by surprise. In California, they have battled some of the largest, deadliest wildfires on record in the past year. In 2015, the northeast was hit by one of the stormiest winters on record, leaving Boston with a whopping 108 inches of snow.
As natural disasters seem to be getting worse each year, experts continue to warn people to be prepared in the event of long periods without power, running water and adequate supplies after a natural disaster.
One important element of being prepared that isn’t discussed enough is how to make sure your pets are ready for an emergency evacuation.
There are three critical components to preparing your pet for an evacuation that every pet owner should know.
1. Training Your Pet
One of the most important things you can do for your pet is to train it in the basics of a survival situation so that they can become a tool for your survival, rather than a liability. There are several aspects of training a pet for a survival situation, but these are some of the most important:
Teach Basic Commands
Your dog should know basic commands, such as come, stay, speak and quiet. In an emergency or stealth situation, these commands can mean the difference between life and death. Your dog should know when to sound the alarm, when to stop, when to come to you immediately and when to stay put. This is critical so that your dog can help defend you or your family as well as help you hunt for food.
Another important element for training your pets is making sure they are comfortable going into a crate quickly. If they are not used to using a crate regularly, they should at least be able to go inside one on command. This is important for dogs experiencing anxiety, exhibiting aggressive behavior or being taken into an emergency shelter or hotel.
Acclimatizing Your Pet to Noise and Weapons
Just like fireworks on the Fourth of July, loud noises and sudden bangs can make dogs react in ways their owners donâ€™t anticipate until it’s too late. If you want your pet to be comfortable around a rifle when youâ€™re hunting for food, it’s important to get them acclimated to the sound early on so that they wonâ€™t panic and bolt when you need them most.
The sounds and looks of other survival tools are important to acclimate your pet to as well, including a bow and arrow, a survival knife and portable power tools such as a chainsaw. Investing in a tactical knife for survival situations can be crucial for first aid, hunting and defense. Make sure your pet is used to you using tools like these often: Even the quick flick of a knife blade in a high-stress situation can make an already tense pet panic if they haven’t heard it before.
Carrying a Bug-Out Bag
Dogs can carry their own first aid kit, grooming supplies, medicine, collapsible water and food bowls, and other crucial supplies in their very own bug-out bag. However, the weight of these bags needs to be adjusted to what your pet can handle, and the weight may cause them to slow down or lose stamina. It’s important to find the right weight for your pet’s size, age and physical condition â€” and itâ€™s a good idea to ensure your pet remains in shape.
You can do this by taking your dog on frequent walks or runs while wearing their bug-out bag.
2. Pack the Right Supplies for Your Pet
The ASPCA recommends having enough food and water supplies for your pet to last between 3 and 7 days. But food and water are just the beginning: There are several kinds of supplies your pet needs for an emergency evacuation, including requirements for shelters.
Your Pet’s Records
Evacuation shelters often require proof of licensing and vaccines before they will allow a pet into the building. Make sure you get copies of these records after every yearly vet visit and keep them in a water-safe pouch in your pet’s bug-out bag. Another helpful tip is to keep copies of updated pictures of your pet to go with these records in case they go missing or there is confusion with authorities at the shelter.
Food, Treats and Water
Your pet’s food needs to be high in protein, especially if you’re going to be on the move often. Canned food is good, but you must keep an eye on the expiration dates and rotate them accordingly. Make sure to stock up on large bags of kibble and have an air-tight container to keep opened bags fresh. Depending on your dog’s size, several bags can last for a few months if needed.
Treats are important for maintaining training, stress relief and introductions to strangers. These also need to be stored in air-tight or resealable containers. Dogs should not need more than a half-gallon of water per day. Make sure the water is filtered, purified or boiled if clean drinking water is unavailable.
Medical and Grooming Supplies
Have at least a three-month supply of your pet’s prescription medications on hand for emergencies, including heartworm and flea treatments. In the event of a natural disaster, your local vet may be unavailable for some time, and you don’t want your pet to suffer or get sick. First-aid kits for pets are also important, including bandages and wound care supplies that are made specifically for pets.
If your dog has long fur, keep a brush on hand to detangle it, especially if youâ€™ll be out in the elements. If you are already carrying a survival knife, you can cut out any brambles or tangles quickly. A nail clipper and waste bags are also important items, along with an extra leash, collar, harness or other lead. Add in an emergency blanket, and your dog can carry these items in his Bug-Out Bag.
3. Have a contingency plan
Not all disasters happen at convenient times, and you may not be home with your pet when one strikes. There are some ways you can still make sure your beloved furry companion gets to safety:
Call a Friend
Make sure a neighbor, dog-walker or other person your pet already knows has access to your home to get your pet out quickly with their supplies. Keep these supplies in an easily-accessible location with a short list of instructions.
Designate a Meeting Point
Plan ahead by keeping your emergency pet contact available. Arrange for a specific place where they will take your pet in the event of an emergency. This way, if communication becomes difficult and phone lines are down, you will know where to go to retrieve your pet and check on your emergency contact.
We don’t always have several days to prepare for a natural disaster, and it’s important to prepare all members of our family for quick evacuation and several days of survival. Spend time training your pet ahead of time, make sure you have plans and supplies, and you and your furry friend will make the most of your survival situation together.Â