How to Prepare for Earthquakes, Floods, Storms...
These are worrying times. Not long after we marked the anniversary of Haiti’s devastating earthquake, New Zealand was struck by its own 6.3-magnitude earthquake. Now Japan struggles to provide for the wounded and homeless—people and pets—in the wake of March 11’s tsunami, earthquake, and resulting nuclear crisis.
Here at home, the National Weather Services warns of spring floods "from the Northern Plains through the Midwest and eastward to New England."
Coupled with tornadoes and snow emergencies already plaguing those areas, it's enough to make anyone nervous for the safety of their family and pets.
How to weather the storm
The good news is that you aren’t powerless, and you aren’t alone. “A person who plans for disaster is going to be far more able to safeguard herself and her animal companions,” says Sara Varsa, The HSUS' deputy director for Emergency Services. “Don’t let the recent tragedies paralyze you—be motivated by them to create a comprehensive plan for taking care of yourself and your pets.”
Start with the basics
There are things you can do to get ready for natural disasters with pets, horses, and farm animals in mind. If you’re a pet owner, start with the basics:
You CAN take your pets
- Prepare a plan (even for everyday emergencies), including identifying a place to stay that will accept your pets
- Develop a checklist for all your pets’ supplies and medical information
- Identify a friend, neighbor, or family member who can take care of your pet if you are away
The federal government now officially supports including pets in disaster plans. In 2000 The HSUS and FEMA signed an historic partnership agreement to encourage and assist people who want to safeguard their pets in a natural disaster. FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate puts it plainly: “Animals are important members of millions of families across this country—and as such they should also be included in our family emergency plans.” FEMA designated May 8, 2010, National Animal Disaster Preparedness Day. <please keep this in bold
Since FEMA came on board, it’s become easier to find a shelter that will accept your pets. But don’t assume any shelter you go to will allow you to keep your dog or cat with you, cautions Varsa. “Before disaster hits, reach out to local officials—work with them to confirm that you will be allowed to evacuate with your pets and that cohabitated shelters [ones that take people and their pets] will be available in your area.”
Make your plan now
The HSUS has not only been at the forefront of working with government agencies to make sure that animals aren’t left to fend for themselves, but “we’ve also developed a highly trained team that can be deployed to offer animal rescue and sheltering services in the wake of disasters,” says Varsa. “While our rescue team stands at the ready to offer disaster-response aid, I advise everyone to be proactive and make their own preparedness plans. That’s the best way to look after the animals in your care. It will help you sleep easier—and be able to offer help to those who are less fortunate than you are."
For more information, please visit www.humanesociety.org/disaster
Tanya Mulford is web editor for The Humane Society of the United States