Wildfire Community Preparedness Day, on Saturday, May 4, is a reminder to communities for residents to prepare themselves and their pets for wildlife fire seasons and a potential emergency evacuation.
“The string of wildfires we saw burn through California in recent years displaced tens of thousands of people and put families at risk of being separated from their pets,” said Dr. Dick Green, senior director of the ASPCA Disaster Response.
“Before disaster strikes, it’s critical for pet owners to prepare animals for a potential evacuation. In honor of Wildfire Community Preparedness Day, the ASPCA urges pet owners to take time to build an emergency evacuation pack for their pets and practice an evacuation – we never know when a disaster might strike but preparing in advance can save lives.”
There are many ways to prepare pets for an emergency evacuation, including:
• Make sure all pets are wearing ID tags with up-to-date contact information. The ASPCA also recommends micro-chipping your pet as a more permanent form of identification, should collars or tags become lost.
• Create a portable pet emergency kit with items including medical records, water, water bowls, pet food and your pet’s medications.
• Choose a designated caregiver, such as a friend or relative outside the evacuation zone, who can take care of your pet in the event you are unable.
• In addition, make sure the crate has all of the necessary contact information someone might need if you are separated from your pet after evacuating. Place a piece of waterproof adhesive tape on the crate and write your name and phone number and your pet’s name. You can also secure a sheet protector on top of the kennel, with all of your pet’s critical paperwork including their medical records and any prescriptions they may be on, your contact information, etc. This is something you can prepare far in advance, but remember to keep the information up-to-date.
• If you know you may be in the line of a disaster, prepare your pet’s crate in advance, and even consider crating them early. Not only will this ensure you’re ready to go when you do decide to evacuate, but you’ll have an easier time finding your pet and putting them in a crate if they don’t sense the level of urgency that might come with an immediate evacuation.
For horse owners seeking tips for emergency preparedness:
• Keep a clean and tidy stable and pasture. Remove hazardous and flammable materials, debris and machinery from around the barn’s walkways, entrances and exits. Regularly maintain and inspect barn floors and septic tanks. Inspect your grounds regularly and remove dangerous debris in the pasture.
• Prevent fires by instituting a no-smoking policy around your barn. Avoid using or leaving on appliances in the barn, even seemingly-harmless appliances like box fans, heaters and power tools can overheat. Exposed wiring can also lead to electrical fires in the barn, as can a simple nudge from an animal who accidentally knocks over a machine.
• Get your horse used to wearing a halter and get him used to trailering. Periodically, you should practice quickly getting your horse on a trailer for the same reason that schools have fire drills—asking a group of unpracticed children to exit a burning building in a calm fashion is a little unrealistic, as is requesting a new and strange behavior of your horse.
• If you own a trailer, please inspect it regularly. Also, make sure your towing vehicle is appropriate for the size and weight of the trailer and horse. Always make sure the trailer is hitched properly—the hitch locked on the ball, safety chains or cables attached, and emergency brake battery charged and linked to towing vehicle. Proper tire pressure (as shown on the tire wall) is also very important.
• Get your horse well-socialized and used to being handled by all kinds of strangers. If possible, invite emergency responders and/or members of your local fire service to interact with your horse. It will be mutually beneficial for them to become acquainted. Firemen’s turnout gear may smell like smoke and look unusual, which many horses find frightening—so ask them to wear their usual response gear to get your horse used to the look and smell.
• Set up a phone tree/buddy system with other nearby horse owners and local farms. This could prove invaluable should you—or they—need to evacuate animals or share resources like trailers, pastures or extra hands!
• Keep equine veterinary records in a safe place where they can quickly be reached. Be sure to post emergency phone numbers by the phone. Include your 24-hour veterinarian, emergency services and friends. You should also keep a copy for emergency services personnel in the barn that includes phone numbers for you, your emergency contact, your 24-hour veterinarian and several friends.
Other actions should include preparing an emergency kit with 3-7 days of pet food, seven storing seven days worth of bottled water for each person and pet (and replacing every two months), photo copies and/or a USB of medical records, recent photos of your pets in case of separation, feeding dishes and water bowls. a traveling bag or sturdy carrier, and comfort items like blankets and toys.
The ASPCA also suggests that pet owners always bring their pet with them if they need to evacuate. If it’s not safe for you, it’s not safe for your pet.
For additional pet preparedness tips, visit: aspca.org/beprepared.